March 31, 2014: A Grandma Lost

Grandma Gib is the quilter to the right
Grandma Gib would have been 96 years old yesterday. With our age spread of exactly fifty years, I have always remembered her age with ease.

We lost Grandma three years ago. But her loved ones felt her loss long before her death. The horrible disease of Alzheimer's afflicted our Grandma. We slowly watched her lose her memory. By her death, Grandma had lost recognition of the family she loved so dearly.

From a health standpoint, she was relatively comfortable in her final years. It was Grandma's family who were left to feel the pain.

An strange twist happened as the illness overtook her mind. She became incredibly witty. Although Grandma had a sense of humor pre-Alzheimer's, she had become down right funny. As her mind forgot, her quick tongue picked up the slack. Her comic tone made us laugh out loud while we mourned inside.

Grandma had us crying in laughter on many occasions with her funny comments and comedic timing. I sometimes asked myself if Grandma really had Alzheimer's or if miraculously she was going to tell us that she was playing us all along. From constant comments to my aunt on her seemingly uncontrollable hair; "you really need to find your brush back", to her breaking out in applause in response to a grandson's story about a hard day at work.

At a family wedding, I was one of the readers. As I approached the pulpit with a necklace that clinked with my every step, I got my grandma's attention. Nestled between two of her children among the congregation, she lit up as she recognized me at the front of the church.

"It's Sandy!" she exclaimed in the quiet of the service.

Her recognition of me and joy made my day. I held on to this feeling in the days ahead when she didn't recognize me. There is something surreal about a disease where the afflicted seem of perfect health and sound mind; other than having a five minute memory span. This was the case with Grandma Gib.

The Alzheimer's also gave her a bit of truth serum as we knew she would tell us exactly what she thought. She had an opinion on just about everything relating to our appearances and was quick to share them with a smile and no filter.

On a visit I made to Grandma in her final months, she commented on the many colors in my hair. I had recently had it colored and highlighted. Her comment came out of the blue as she strained herself to look closer.

"Do you like it?"  I asked; wincing as I awaited her answer.

"Yes," she answered.

As I breathed a sigh of relief, I decided to push the envelope with a second question.

"Grandma, I just had my birthday. Do you know how old I am?"

"No, I don't," she answered with a sweet smile.

"I'm forty-three," I revealed. "Fifty years younger than you."

"Yous…43? I can't believe that! You were such a blessing to us when you were born."

To this day, my heart still warms thinking of this moment in time. Grandma was sitting peacefully in her rocking chair with the sun shining on her one-colored hair of gray.

When I was young, a favorite memory was sitting with my grandma while she quilted. We would spend hours at this quiet activity. The sun shining through the screen door would light my grandma's face as she concentrated on her needle work. Most days we would just sit quietly as the warm sun filled the room. There was no discomfort in the silence that surrounded us.

It's funny the things in life that you miss. But I can still feel the warmth of the sun and her smile in my memory. That will never be lost.


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