Last night Grandma was rather talkative. She made plenty of fun of herself as usual, but also expressed frustration at the fact that her mind is “running away” from her. She kept saying “I’m a horrible old creature” and “there’s something wrong with the old lady”.
I asked for clarification and she said “my mind”. We chatted about that a bit and she said that she sits there all day thinking just like she always has, but when someone asks a question, her mind goes blank and she becomes flustered.
“I don’t like to be stupid” she said.
Whenever she gets like this I try to reassure her that it’s perfectly normal at her age to have some memory loss. I also tell her that I don’t think she’s stupid.
She said, “But I’m still young on the inside”.
“One of the cruelest things about life”, I told her, “is that we always remember how we used to be even as our minds and bodies start to go”.
I explained that just recently I’ve started to realize how quickly time is going by, and that it scares the hell out of me to think that the next thirty or forty years is going to go by in a snap.
“You’re just a kid”, she told me.
That gave both of us a laugh.
We sat quietly for awhile, both lost in our own thoughts. I asked her to let me know if there is ever anything I could do to make this easier on her. I don’t expect that she ever will. The path from thought to expression of thought has become a minefield for Grandma.
I am thankful for moments like these, when she’s relaxed and able to communicate clearly and without hesitation. I know that these moments are going to become increasingly rare as time goes on.
What she expresses when she’s like this proves that her mind isn’t simply idle all the time. There’s clearly a lot of thought and even self-reflection happening in there. It’s not the mind that’s broken, it’s the means to express herself that is failing her.
But what do I know? I’m just a kid…
I experienced the same thing with my grandmother. My Dad’s mother, Ann, told me when I was 16 years old, that when she looked in the mirror she did not recognize the old woman staring back at her. Inside she felt like she was still 16 years old. I will never forget her words and the frustration she felt at her body not doing what she wanted it to do. Ever since then I looked at the elderly differently. They are really young people trapped in worn out bodies. Its a sobering thought. Its a stage of life that deserves respect. I think its wonderful that you have decided to give this gift to Norma. To be able to live at home, with someone you love, and to share the journey is a gift. My Dad is haunted by his uncle and aunt who begged to come and live with him in Hawaii when their daughter had shut them out and wanted nothing to do with them. Uncle Paul ended up dying alone, separated from his wife in the same care home. Not too long afterwards Aunty Novella also died alone in the care home. No one to be by her side as she passed from this world into the next. Very sad.
This makes me sad… *sigh*