We went to see my grandma yesterday.
A visit which made me both happy and sad at the same time.
Have you seen "The Notebook"? I'm sure most of you have. A beautiful love story with the gorgeous Ryan Gosling. Makes me cry every time. The movie itself, not Mr. Gosling, of course.
You might think what do these two have in common? Well...
My grandma has Alzheimer's. And although the setting is very similar to this wonderful, bittersweet movie, the real life is much, much worse. There are no beautiful actors, no perfect sceneries and definitely no scripts that tell you what to do and how to act. There's just reality. And sometimes reality sucks.
When my grandpa died in 2009, grandma stayed alone at their country house. My family visited her as often as we possibly could and helped with housework. I mostly went there for the chats and delicious food. With time passing by, we started noticing some flaws in her memory. However, we never thought it could be that serious. But then she started to forget who we were and came up with some ridiculous stories and we knew something was wrong. So we took her to a doctor to find out she has Alzheimer's.
From that on it just went downward spiral. She got worse really quick and we had to do something. My uncle took her in and she lived with him for a couple of months, but it was clear pretty soon that she needs to be taken care of 24/7. With all of us working and studying it was impossible.
We then had to do the hardest thing ever... put her in a nursing home.
We know it was the best decision for her. She is now taken care of at all times, she is fed, clean, warm and amongst people. However, for some reason this felt like the ultimate betrayal.
I'm an absolute country kid who grew up on my grandparents farm. My grandma has helped raising me and has been a role model for years. I've learned to cook, clean, garden and take care of things mostly just from her. She has given me so much of her time. And now when she needs me the most, I can't be there for her. And it breaks my heart. There is nothing any of us can do. The worst feeling in the world is to feel helpless. Helpless to the ones we love the most. I never really knew heart could actually ache from mental pain. But it can. And it does. I feel like I gave up on her, even though she is better off at the nursing home than she would be living with me.
The strange thing with Alzheimer's is that only the people around it has to actually deal with it. Although my grandma is the one with the disease, she's having the time of her life. She doesn't recognize us anymore. Well, she does, but only for a short period of time. During our 2h visit she 'came back' to us a couple times. But mostly she lives in her own little world, not knowing what's happening around her, ergo not worrying. And although it breaks my heart, I'm happy for her. Physically she's healthier than a horse. She has friends, she's joined the choire, she's happy and everyone absolutely adores her there. Even with her own little quirks.
When we arrived, she smiled at me and, as I hugged her, she said "How are you, my sweet granddaughter?" Although she recognized me only for that split second, it was the most beautiful feeling in the world.
I left with tears in my eyes. But oddly enough, they were tears of joy. My heart is not fully at peace and I don't think it will ever be, however, my sweet, loving grandmother is still in there. She hasn't forgotten me. She just can't remember me sometimes. And that's okay.