I miss her. My grandma is in a wheelchair now and it’s as though her body has shrunk over the years to better accommodate the skinny chair. She curls herself protectively into the chair, gazing with child-like wonder and wide blue eyes at everything around her.
I wish I knew what she was thinking, if perhaps this Alzheimer’s disease has somehow given her the gift of looking at everything as though it is always brand new. Her hair still has quite a bit of grey in it, though she is in her mid-eighties now. Her hair, which she always kept coarse and tightly curled in the fashion of a crown framing her head, is soft and silky. It is straight now, and cut in a bob. I’ve never seen her like this. She seems like a new person to me, and yet when I look into her eyes I see the mischief that lurks just behind the iris. She pulls her wrinkled lips into a lopsided smile, probably because of the strokes. It gives her more personality…not that she needs it. Her smile seems to be for me alone, and I’m struck with the notion that if she could, she would wink at me as if we were in cahoots.
Without her dentures, her top lip droops a little and overlaps the bottom one slightly in the center. Her back is gently hunched, and with her sleek hair outlining her small head she vaguely reminds me of a turtle. Her eyes overwhelm her face with a striking blue. Not like my blue eyes, which are more gray than anything else, but the blue of the unclouded sky.
My grandma is both old and new right now. She is strong and beautiful, full of grace. She could be feisty, with a scathing wit and a passion for good literature, and at times I think that is gone until I see the mischief still there in her eyes. She seems to tell me that she is still the same on the inside, still there, like it is a secret between the two of us. I want to take her home with me and have all those talks like we used to, and feel her hugs that were always too bony.
Before the Alzheimer’s and the nursing home she was sharp and angular. When she was older she was still strong, hugging everyone too tight. She mowed the lawn in the summer, planted flowers and tomatoes with me and walked just about anywhere she wanted to go.
We both had similar philosophies about life: that you only live once, and that it is short. She was diabetic, but she had learned the fine art of moderation. She would have ice cream when she felt like it and a piece of candy here or there. Our outings consisted of walks to the park, a foot-long pink hot dog from the corner store, and a donut or sweet treat from the bakery at the end of the road. She used to say we burned off most of the calories walking to the store and back. We both loved butterscotch hard candy, peanut butter cookies, popcorn and Cheetos. She would also slice an apple and give me a huge glob of peanut butter as a bedtime snack. She knew that peanut butter was the way to my heart.
We would play Scrabble, Boggle and “Name the States” game. When the whole family got together we would play Trivial Pursuit and Yahtzee. My grandma scoffed at television and toys, something which irked me terribly, and lauded the pursuit of knowledge as though you could not enjoy both television and knowledge. I used to cook with her. Mostly she cooked, but she gave me extra dough so I could pretend to cook too. She never understood why I had such a good time with her. She would be amazed if she knew how many times I’ve thought that I could just pick up the phone and ask her how to make steamed clams, or what Finnan Haddie is. Alzhiemer’s and numerous strokes have taken that away, but she’s still around. On the inside, she’s still so much like herself that I could jump for joy. The grandma I knew was a fighter and if there was something worth sticking around for, she was determined to do so. She always wanted to live to be one hundred, and if there’s anyone I know who could will themselves to do just that, it would be her.
Even though she is still here, it’s like she’s trapped inside her own body without the ability to adequately communicate. Some days I can sense her frustration at not being able to give me a piece of her mind. Even though she’s still here, I miss her.