Mama and I went to see Grandmother Sunday. It was a milestone day for us, and not in a good way. She did not recognize either of us, which was bad enough. But she also did not recognize my name, which is different from not recognizing me. My 39 year old self has been part of her life for a very short time, really. But my NAME has been part of her life for four decades. Even more disheartening was that when Mama said “Mother”, there was not a flash of anything in Grandmother’s eyes or face.
She looked so sad and alone in the bed. I realized that as tough as it is on us to be there unrecognized, it’s got to be worse on her. Surely she must feel deserted, if the people she loves never come around. And if she doesn’t recognize us, then the effect on her is the same as us not coming at all. We are just more faceless strangers performing tasks to try to ensure her physical comfort.
Right before we left, Mama took down a sign that had hung in Grandmother’s room above her bed since she went into the nursing home. The sign said “Dear Visitors, if I am sleeping, please wake me.” I’m pretty sure Mama was crying when she did it, but her back was to me.
We left the nursing home, and went “home”, that being what we call Grandmother’s house. We walked around, looking at the green growing things. Grand-dad”s tractor is still parked under the barn across the road. The flowers and shrubs that my Grandmother loved are growing riotously, spilling over the beds. It was all very interesting, in that way that quaint places that belong to strangers is interesting. There is no more of my grandparents left there than there is in photographs in a magazine.
I wonder if that’s part of the draw of magazines? Perhaps they conduct market research to determine which pictures will strike a chord with their readers memories. What exactly will take them flying back to their own pasts in a way that is pleasant, but not painful? Close, but not too close to the reality they once knew?