You hear conflicting comments when a loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s.
Some people say, “She’s still your granny.” Others say, “It’s not her anymore, it’s the disease.”
Both are right, but as someone whose grandmother has Alzheimer’s, neither provides much clarity or comfort.
The fact that one in six women at age 65 will develop Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association website, isn’t too comforting either. I could sit here and worry every day about whether my mama will forget our memories, too. I could worry about whether she’ll end up staring blankly at me, forgetting my name and our relation.
I could worry endlessly about the same thing happening to my brain.
I could also sit here and try to tell you what it’s like to be around my granny. I could say it’s frustrating and heartbreaking, which it is. This isn’t my story, though.
My granny can’t tell you about herself, but I can.
Allee Bonner was born in 1932. Her father died when she was young and her mother worked a lot as a nurse. She had a brother named Harry.
The only bad grade Allee ever got in school was an “F+” in choir for talking too much.
She met Joe Hamilton on a blind date and they were married in 1952. They’ve been together ever since.
And only recently has she stopped excessively chitchatting.
My granny was the kind of lady who had friends everywhere, from grocery store aisles to church pews.
Her friends ask about her all of the time and bring her homemade cookies and brownies.
My granny used to make cookies — chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, sandies — by the hundreds. She would count every single one as she carefully arranged them in empty ice cream buckets.
I miss those cookies. I miss having hour-long conversations with my granny.
I miss her wearing lipstick and blush and having her hair perfectly permed by her friend Tootsie.
But a very essential part of my granny is still there.
If you scold her for doing something wrong, like drinking from the salt shaker instead of a water glass, you can see fear and embarrassment in her eyes.
When my mom told her and my granddaddy that I made honor roll, she cheered, “She’s a marvel!”
When nurses talked about what the “next step” is for her, she cried.
The lipstick might be gone and the cookies might be store-bought now, but that’s OK, because my granny and her heart are still here.
She might not remember my name or all the stories we shared. But that’s OK.
Because I know my granny.