I am losing her. I know it and I can’t stop it.
Amid medical advancements, false promises from halfwit doctors, brain surgeries, and all the physical and occupational therapy in the world, I am slowly losing my grandmother.
She forgot where she lives, even in her own home. She didn’t know when she moved there. It was 1988…. I was three and there was a swing on the longest branch of the tallest tree in their yard.
And here I am, my grandmother’s only granddaughter. I sit here, at my desk, knowing that the world outside is full of sunshine and pending spring, and I am looking at a blank screen. Because if I had to list all of things I know about my grandmother, I’m not sure I could.
When I think of my great-grandmother, I can remember a lot and in vivid, childlike detail. But I regret not asking her the right questions about her life and the way that she saw the world.
Thinking about my grandma, I’m not sure I asked her those questions either and I’m not thirteen.
I don’t know if it is the shock of her decline that has me befuddled or if I really don’t know. But either way, the feeling is one of both sadness and disbelief. I’m not sure what I’ll say one day when my child asks me about his or her great-grandmother. I know the basics: where she grew up, when she married my grandfather, where they lived, etc. etc. but I don’t know much, at least right now, about what makes her, her.
My grandmother has always claimed not to have any talent, which I know is a crock. She made beautiful floral arrangements when I was young and had them spread throughout her home. But I don’t know why she always said that she didn’t have any talent.
I don’t know if she ever kept a journal. I don’t know what women inspired her. I have no idea who or what she wanted to be when she was ten, twelve, or sixteen.
I don’t know how she saw the world through the lens of her own female experience.
I am afraid that I will never find the answers to these questions. My grandmother is still alive, although I know I am losing her. I know it and I can’t stop it.
There are roadblocks along my path of discovery. One person that will block me at every turn if I want so much as a photograph. Another that will selfishly claim my grandmother’s possessions for himself and the grandchildren that don’t speak to my grandparents. My grandfather is alive and well and in control of his own faculties; however, the sheer dismay of watching the love of his life decline into a shell will take its toll on him as well. I know this and I can’t stop it.
As a writer, I find it hard to believe that I don’t know this information. I am a born observer. I see more than I ever say, and that may eventually come as a surprise to the many that underestimate me. But for now, I am disappointed. In my own lack of knowledge and in the knowledge that getting that information will be a battle.
Although my motivation might seem selfish, and in some ways, I suppose it is. I want to know more about my grandmother before I can’t. I want to record the female experience from my own bloodline and preserve it for my children. They should know where and from whom they come.
I only have one grandmother, and I am losing her. I know it and I can’t stop it.
(Above: What could be the last good photograph of me with my grandparents. October 17, 2015)