Bamboozled

The scene when we walk through the front door is familiar.

A few residents sit watching TV in the living room.  Today, Dora the Explorer is on.  Another resident has dozed off in a nearby recliner, buried underneath a patchwork afghan.  An upright piano stands against one wall, covered in plastic.  I wonder if it has ever been played.

And there she is.  A frail, white haired woman nestled in the faded floral couch staring at, but not really watching, the adventures of Dora and Boots.

Would this be the day she recognized me?  Will this be the day I will bamboozle myself back into her memories?  I suspect as soon as I see her it will not be.

“Hi Grammie, it’s me!”  My attempts to sound upbeat and carefree sound feeble even to my own ears.  “How are you today?” I continue lamely.

She looks up from her cartoons.  “Hello, dear,” she answers back.   She sees me.  But she does not see me.

We join her on the couch.  We make lame attempts at small talk, while the kids watch Dora.

“How are your parents, dear?” she asks.

“They’re good,” I say, knowing my dad had visited her the day before.

We talk about what the kids are learning in preschool.  What they’re going to be for Halloween.  How my daughter takes after her mom more than I’d care to admit.

“Monkey see, monkey do,” Grandma quips back.  I can’t resist smiling about this.  The memories may be gone.  But her sense of humor is something that has remained intact.

Our small talk winds down, and I realize our visit is nearing an end.  I wave my daughter over, and say, “Come give Great Grammie a hug before we go.”

My daughter hangs back.  “No,” she pouts.

“Come here,” I hiss.  She cowers by her father’s knees and digs in with a resolution and stubbornness I know too well.  I know it is not going to happen.

She is scared.  She doesn’t really know her great grandmother.  I felt guilty.  Because it’s my fault.  We live 10 minutes away.  And yet, we visit rarely.

I make a thousand excuses for this.  We get busy with our daily lives.  But the truth is, my excuses are a lame attempt at bamboozling myself.

The truth is, I’m scared to visit.  I wonder when we walk in the door if it will be a good day, or a not-so-good day.  I wonder if she’ll remember me.  I wonder if I’ll have glimpses of the grandma I remembered growing up, or if she will be as much of a stranger to me as I am to her.

The truth is, I’m selfish.  When we visit, she is there physically.  But she has not been there in other ways for some time now.  I miss her.  And I’m scared that I won’t be able to recapture moments when she looked into my eyes, or those of my children, and regarded us with more than gratitude to a stranger for coming to visit a lonely old woman.

As if reading my mind, my toddler son steps up to the plate.  He reaches out and grasps her hand.  He looks down, seemingly surprised by how soft it is.  Almost like his own.

Grandma caresses his fat little fingers between her own.  She doesn’t recognize him.  But, perhaps, in the back of her mind, she recalls raising seven children of her own, and a time when her own children had hands that perfect and small.

“How old is he, dear?” she asks me for the fourth time since we arrived.

“He’s almost two,” I answer again.

“You’re doing a wonderful job with them.  I can see how much you love them.  It’s important to pass that  onto your children.”

My vision suddenly goes blurry.  I don’t want to cry in front of her.  Or my children.

“Just like you did, Grandma,” I say.  She just nods and smiles back.

“I love you, Grandma,” I say as we get up to leave.  “We’ll be back to visit again soon.”  And I know as soon as I utter the words that I may just be bamboozling myself again.

But my last words seem  to resonate with her.  She looks excited for the first time since we walked in the door.  “Oh, would you, dear?  These visits are what keep me going.”

I can only nod my head as I get up and try to make it to the door before the floodgates open.  We will be back.  I swear to myself, that next time, I’m not going to bamboozle myself with excuses not to go.

I owe it to myself to get over my own selfish excuses.  I owe it to my kids to have memories of their great grandmother.

And, most importantly, I owe it to her.

Written for WoW.  But inspired by a beautiful post by Left of Lost.  Thank you for writing.  And for inspiring me to get off my ass and go visit.

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28 thoughts on “Bamboozled”

  1. Good for you for visiting. Good for Chip for stepping up to plate. Try to visit again. My, Grandmother (the only grandparent I ever knew) died a few years back. I didn't visit her during her last year or so of life even though she lived nearby. I regret it.

  2. Only 1 comment on this so far?! Come on Anonymous! You can do better!Wow. Just wow. Being a 2nd generation (or 1.5? I can never get that right), visiting my parents when they get older isn't really an option – it's expected. And the first portion of this post is my exact reason I'm not looking forward to those days when they inevitably arrive. But that last part. Gripping. And actually makes me look forward to it.

  3. The tears are running down my face as I read this. It is so very hard and so very scary at the same time. My Grandpop suffered the same disease and I cried myself to sleep the first time I visited and he didn't recognize me (he'd recognized me up to that point). Seeing him hurt after that, but I forced myself to go. I think deep down he knew how very loved he was. Big hugs to you my dear. You're teaching the kids a valuable lesson by continuing to visit and show your love. You're a strong woman. What a sweet soul little Chip is.

  4. What a great post! I don't think it's selfishness. I think we all get caught up in the life and all things associated. You went and that is what matters…and you'll go back. You sent a very poignant message to us today. People tend to become more transparent as they get older but we all need validation, no matter how old we are. Good for you for making your grandmother special by putting aside your needs and addressing hers as well as your children's.

  5. You are such a great writer and story teller. I felt as if I was there visiting your Grandmother with you. You have such a great big heart and your family can see that…especially your grandmother. Keep visiting her and build more memories with her…you won't regret it.

  6. Wow, BooyahMomma! That's intense! Though I understand and have been there. I'm so glad you went, and what Chip did was so sweet and wise beyond his years.

  7. What a touching post. I have tears in my eyes. It is not easy to see a relative in that state. Good for you for pushing yourself to go. You're a strong mama and a good exammple for your kids.

  8. Thanks for the good cry. I feel the same way when I go see grammie. You described walking into that house perfectly. I miss the grammie of our childhood, but every once in a while she sneaks in a comment or two that make you laugh and remember. I wish I had kept a book of all the funny things she has said to me over the past few years. "9 months, don't talk to me about the number 9." I have a memory of her pouring a Dr. Pepper on an uncle's head one family holiday and the time she drug a hose through the house. You have inspired me to make that time to go see her, even if it's just for a minute.

  9. What a sweet sad story. None of my grandparents are still living but I think about my parents in that situation and I just can't take it. I'm sorry this is on your plate but am proud of you for going. I'm sure it's difficult when she doesn't recognize you but hope it is some consolation knowing that she still enjoys your visits. I'm glad to get to know this part of you but I'm going to have to put a box of tissues by my computer before I read your posts anymore.

  10. This is so true and so heartbreaking. We all do this don't we? Because it's too hard to face it sometimes.

  11. OK, now there are tears in my cereal. What a sweet, touching post and such a true picture of what it's like to watch someone you have memories of who is just fading away. It's so hard, and I know exactly why you don't often go.I love the picture, and the image of Chip's hand in hers was sweet. Awesome job, my friend.

  12. OH, I am so very glad that you went!!! And while it was hard for you (and will continue to be), you cannot deny that last little connection you made with her, that effect you had on her, just by being there. Keep going. I can promise you that all of you will get something out of it, in forms unseen. xoxo

  13. What a heartfelt post – that I can relate to all too well. My grandmother had alzheimer's and it was so painful visiting her and the home she was in was just so depressing. Don't beat yourself up about this. You do what you can – for her and for you.

  14. This would be so hard. The fact that she has a sense of conversation would keep drawing me back.I probably would come up with busy reasons and not make it.

  15. I went through this when my Nana got sick. I knew I should go see her, but always had reasons not to. I wish I would've done it more often because I know how much it meant to her – and to me.

  16. Very touching, terrific post. You did an awesome job of using the word 'bamboozled.' And your grammie, for everything she's not anymore, still seems like the sweetest lady in the world.

  17. This post hits me right at my core. Watching my grandfather sink into dementia was the most heartbreaking thing I ever experienced. Instead of facing it head on, I avoided it. To this day its my biggest regret. Thank you for opening your heart on such an amazing post. (and on a lighter note, Kalua Pork for dinner tomorrow. Woo!

  18. I visited my Nana (great-grandmother) in the nursing home as often as I could in her last year. Looking back on it, it doesn't feel like it was enough. But there's no guilt there, because I made an honest effort. You're doing the best you can and nobody can ask any more from you.

  19. That was really, really sweet. I loved reading it. If we are fortunate enough, we are all going to grow old. We all want someone to visit us when we are lonely. That visit with your grandmother will hopefully remain tucked in her heart until you can visit again. I need to call my grandmother now. Thanks for the reminder!

  20. I do not have relatives at the moment who sit and wait for my visit.But a part of me is so scared of being that old woman that no one visits. A small part of me is terrified of that. Tears in my eyes at the thought.Sigh.And so if there is anything left of a connection? A spark? A recognition? I hope that you will continue to visit, no matter how hard it is for you.Because someday?That old woman who is sometimes confused and doesn't always remember her visitors?May be me.Or you.Death or age and then death comes to us all.And kindness along the way?Smooths the journey.Big love to you.

  21. good for you. as hard as it is, and even if she doesn't remember you, she needs that closeness and comfort of family.one of my grandmother's has dementia and doesn't even know her own children anymore. it's soo sad. it's hard to not give up hope. so i applaud you for carving out the time for her.

  22. oh man, you made me get all teary. I'm so glad you visited your grandma, and I'm so grateful my own grandparents are not yet at the point where they need to go into care.

  23. this was a lovely and touching description of a memorable moment in time. & for the record, what you exude sounds anything but selfish to me!

  24. sometimes kids are the easiest way to 'break the ice' – they're so innocent and honest. I'm glad you went, and you better go back 😉

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