She doesn’t remember

The Matchbox car that lies haphazardly on the kitchen floor digs into my foot as I step on it.

I screech out a four letter word in a very un-motherly fashion, and wince with pain.  I’m thankful the kids aren’t home to hear it.  I look down in disgust at the discarded toy, the same one I’ve reprimanded her countless times to not leave lying around for someone to step on.

She doesn’t remember to pick up her toys like I always ask.  I’m annoyed.

Screaming penetrates the air.  I’ve just gotten home from work, and am exhausted.  I yearn for a few minutes of peace and quiet.   But, yet, she cavorts throughout the house on a tear, howling and giggling with abandon.

“Inside voices!” I yell at her, losing my cool already.  I’ve told her a thousand times that screaming in the house is not allowed.

She doesn’t remember to use her inside voice.  Again.  I’m impatient.

She tears into our bedroom like a tornado.  It’s 5:30 in the morning.  Way too early for me to be muffling a her loud preschooler cackles.  And what makes it doubly worse is that I haven’t yet had my first cup of coffee.

We trudge downstairs.  Her feet stomping on the floor sound a wild elephant herd running through the house, and the pitter-patter is anything but tiny.  I’m quite certain, in fact, that the noise can be heard from the next county.

“Quiet!”  I hiss.  “Do you want to wake up your brother?”

She doesn’t remember that we need to be respectful of other people.  Especially at the butt crack of dawn. When they’re sleeping.  I’m perturbed.

We go to see my grandma.  It’s a visit that is long overdue, and one that I’ve been subconsciously putting off for far too long.

When we get there, I see Grandma sitting on the couch, staring vacantly off into the distance.  We go up to her, and hug her.  She smiles faintly, but I can tell she doesn’t recognize us.  As if it would help her remember, I proceed to babble incessantly about what’s been going on in our lives.  Grandma stares through me, and mumbles something incoherently.

She doesn’t remember who we are.  To say that I feel sadness would be an understatement.

In the car ride on the way home, we talk about it.  I tell my daughter that Grandma has a hard time remembering things now.  But she is special to mommy.  And it’s important that we go visit.  Even if it’s hard.

“Maybe we can go visit Grandma together sometime soon,” I offer.  “Just me and you?”

“Sure, mom,” she replies, absently.

“But she won’t remember,” I think to myself.  And almost immediately after we get home, the thought vanishes from my own mind.   I get wrapped up in every day life.  I forget about visiting.  I forget about the promises I made.

And then, I enter her preschool room.

“Look what I did today!” she exclaims excitedly when I walk in.  She motions to the folder bulging with artwork.

I absently leaf through the piles of construction paper and scribbles.  The crayon markings blur together in a Crayola haze, until I get to one in particular that catches my eye.

“Dear Grandma” is written in awkward, cramped lettering on one of the pieces.

“She’s been working hard on this today,” her teacher explains.  “She said she wanted to draw a special picture for her Grandma, because Grandma doesn’t remember very well.”

As I look at the artwork, I feel an unexpected lump in my throat.

“Turn it over, mommy!” she continues.  “I wrote my name on the back.  So it would help Grandma remember who I was.  Can we take it to her?”

And right then and there, I lose it.

Not because I’m annoyed, impatient, perturbed or saddened.

But because my daughter remembered.

It wasn’t a little thing.

It was a huge thing.  An important thing.

Some things, she doesn’t remember.  But I know that there is a part of her that remembers that which is truly important.

And the other things that are forgotten?  Maybe that’s okay.  Because even if she doesn’t remember, someone else will.


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.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda

Regret.

For the most part, my own regrets are small, relatively insignificant ones.  I regret trying to change out that clogged sprinkler head myself.  I regret having that last drink.  As much as I love Taco Bell, every time I go there I later regret that decision.  And so does my family.

And then, there are the big regrets.  Perhaps, one of the biggest of my life is that I never said goodbye to my grandfather.

Grandpa got sick the summer before my senior year in college.  I knew he hadn’t been doing well, but at the time, I was too self-absorbed in parties, a new relationship with some hot guy that would eventually become my husband, and my summer job to realize the gravity of the situation.  As a young, invincible 21 year-old, mortality wasn’t something that was at the forefront of my mind.

He passed away later that summer.  I never got to say goodbye.

Almost 15 years later, that regret has not diminished.

A few months ago, I got an email that my grandmother was not doing well.  I had a flash of deja vu.  And this time, I did not hesitate.  I knew I had to go.

As bad as this sounds, as much as part of me wanted and needed to go, the other part equally dreaded it.  In the back of my mind, I knew it would not be a “fun” vacation.

For one thing, I planned on taking Chip, so that he could meet his great-grandmother.  But the thought of traveling solo cross-country with a toddler in tow sent shivers up my spine.  And for good reason.  Multiple meltdowns at 50K feet, hectic schedules and long days driving back and forth from the hotel ended up taking the toll on us both.

I was also not prepared for the mixture of bittersweet emotions I’d feel once we got there.  The sadness of seeing my once-solid grandma transformed into someone more childlike than grandmotherly.  The frustration of strained family relationships.  The emptiness of walking around in a house that used to be filled with laughter, chaos and vivacity…that was simply not any more. 

I say it was bittersweet, because there were indeed good things about the trip as well.

Like seeing Chip trounce around in the fields I used to spend my summers frolicking in.

Glimpses of the grandmother I remembered.

Taking pictures of four generations gathered together.

Quiet strolls in the field with grandma.

And one day, visiting with my grandmother, and seeing the recognition in her eye when she realized who I was, and that it was her great-grandson visiting.

Do I have any regrets for going?  Not a single one.

Mama's Losin' It

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