2010 / february / 27


Autumn colours

This is one for my Oma.
My lively, compassionate grandma.
A source of calm.
A source of warmth.
One of the sweetest people I knew as a kid.

Slowly, vascular dementia has been taking over.

This one is for my Opa, too.
My child-of-the-Depression grandpa.
Who worked his ass of in his working life.
To arrive at work at seven.
The first one in, the last one out.

As it got serious - salt instead of sugar, turning the taps on and forgetting to turn them off, turning on the gas and forgetting to light it - he took the new job on.
For three years, he had to wake up at seven. Before she would.
First one out of the bed, last one in.

My grandpa had sworn that he would never bring her to a home. But they are both 86 years old. Even with all the help he got (and had to learn to accept), it had to come to an end. If only because a few hours of sleep per day is not enough.

Five weeks ago, a place became available in a specialized home. Two days later, my grandma moved to a new room, with a single bed. After more than sixty years of marriage with hardly a night alone.

Sometimes she seems happy.
Sometimes she cries.
Sometimes she stands at the entrance, and tries to escape.
Last week was her birthday. She didn't quite understand what the fuss was all about.


As a kid, I loved visiting my mom's parents. My dad's mother was still alive at that time, too, but much older, frail and brittle, we kids had to be quiet around the house there. She was a distant relative. My opa and oma however, were like uncle and aunt. Maybe just a little older, but that was it. And when there was trouble in the family, my oma was the peacemaker that would bring everyone together again.

Only after they hit 70, they turned into Old People. They slowed down in the way Old People literally do, walking, talking, driving. Lifelong quirks and habits got a bit more emphasis. But they were still the same people.

Now, my grandma no longer is the same person she once was. Most of the time. Sometimes, a glimpse comes through. But this is the most heartbreaking of all: what comes through is not the calm, warm, loving personality that played such a role in the family. The few moments she seems to be a bit more clear, she shows desperate confusion.


Today, I went to visit her, for the second time. The best visitors can do is do something simple together. We looked at photos from our India trip, and we inked a drawing of Winnie-the-Pooh. She didn't mind me taking a photo of her, and faintly smiled when I showed it on the display. And went back to concentrate on her pencil. Every stroke was spot-on.

She seemed to be ok, when we left at noon. She was certainly happy with our visit. But in the afternoon, when it was his time to leave, she begged my grandpa to take her with him. He was in tears when he told it to my mother later. The ordeal is changing him, too. He's never been a man to cry. At least this is a conscious change, and maybe for the better.


This is one for my Oma.
My lively, compassionate grandma. The one I used to know.
I hope she's still inside there, and quietly holds her hand.
And tells her, without words, it's alright, it's alright.

Have a wonderful day | main | In the footsteps of St. Francis





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