Memory Part 1

Dear Millicent,

I have been thinking about my grandmother’s memory.  On a recent visit home, my mom made a famous dish in the family, one that we love to love out of reverence for joint comfort and an agreed upon proof that there were joys in their family.  When we cook this recipe, it’s to honor to my grandmother. This last visit, she didn’t recognize the dish.

She also doesn’t recognize me if I am with children (I think, because I am supposed to be one of the children).  She has waking dreams where she walks in parking lots looking for her dead husband.  She will ask you the same question 30 times in an hour.  She will stop asking the question if you tell her the answer she wants to hear.

This part of age is now encountered regularly enough that “She didn’t even know who I was,” has become part of our script (in both television melodrama and sympathetic conversation).  My father mentioned his disorientation in visiting his grandmother as a boy, with her talking to him as if he were his own father, but at his age.  There is an idea that the person has left: “she’s gone, there’s nobody home.” What I find fascinating is that the absence is about us.  They are still there, it’s us, actually, who have left the picture.   My grandmother enjoyed her meal, just not the sentiment of the family tradition.  My great grandmother pinched the cheek of a little boy who looked exactly like her son, and in that view, my father was erased.

I have noticed that I am less keen on visiting now, both because I am afraid of seeing more deterioration, and because it seems trivial if every two minutes the present is forgotten.  This sounds ugly.  It is.  It’s also because, in some stupid way, I feel like if I don’t exist in her psyche then I am released.  The epitome of the spoiled grandchild—-if you stop thinking about me, I go blind.  I don’t think this is uncommon.  It might be a small relief (a hard relief) to a family that when they move a parent to a nursing home they are out of it and not full witness to the loss and change.

It does bring up an interesting question, one that we have talked about here in regard to love, family, and friendship.  Ultimately, is our main connection and tenderness to another person rooted in the image they hold of us?




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