The Long Goodbye
She slips away from us a little more every day. She looks the same, dozing in her chair, but she really isn't there. She is no longer the Grandma I used to know, the one who used to know me. That Grandma always brought me to her house every other weekend when I was growing up, took me school shopping , always had cupcakes in the pantry and was obsessed with Jello. Her ministry was letter-writing. She wrote and received hundreds of letters, to family, friends, and even friends of mine. She did cross-stitch and embroidery until her eyes and fingers gave out.
My memory left her long ago. She displays a vague recognition that I am someone friendly and familiar and that I belong here. I am thankful for that. When we show her photos of my Grandpa who passed away 8 years ago, she smiles but cannot remember the name of the man who was her husband for 61 years. Worse yet, her own identity, her very sense of self is evaporating from her mind.
One night after I put her to bed, I heard her chanting to herself over the baby monitor. She often does this. I struggle to hear what she is saying, looking for some deep meaning as she has so little to say to us anymore. The words she chants at night are mostly gibberish. Sometimes it starts out making sense, like a rhythmic prayer, "Thank you Jesus...Thank you Jesus...Thank you Jesus...." (At least she remembers Jesus!) Often the words change and become garbled. On this particular night, I heard her repeating her own name, over and over. It was a desperate attempt to hold on to her own identity..."I'm Vera...I'm Vera...I'm Vera..."
I miss her.