Alzheimer’s Is For Lovers.

24 Aug

I returned this week from a SUPER quick trip to Baltimore and Lancaster, PA to visit my family. My boyfriend Ervin went with me and met them as well. He is a fan! (He has to be, otherwise, he’s fired.) I have enough photos to bore a small army. Most of them are of a certain baby nephew, National Bohemian beer cans and Amish things.

We crammed a ton of activities into a tiny stretch of time (as per usual, when I visit), so while I was glad to see my family, it never feels like long enough. We visited Amish Country, The National Aquarium in Baltimore, went to church and had a 1 year old’s birthday party. A lot.

While in Lancaster, Ervin (the brave) went with me and my parents to visit my Grandma “MaMa” in the old folks’ home. Specifically, the Alzheimer’s wing of The Mennonite Home. It’s near the Park City Mall in Lancaster. Where I worked one summer at The Wall CD store (back when we had CDs), and also hostessed at The Olive Garden, where I learned how to tie a tie and then forgot completely for the rest of my life.

MaMa goes with PopPop who died in April. My Dad’s parents. She has Alzheimer’s and has to live on a locked floor of the building. I had visited her there one time before, the weekend of my PopPop’s service, but I was apprehensive about going back. Mainly because there’s a lady who yells her home state to you at random “I’M FROM TEXAS”, a lot of kind of burble-gurgle coming from the clients in wheelchairs… it doesn’t seem like a fun place to be. So I feel bad seeing MaMa in there. She is the very definition of “social butterfly”. I’ve always known her to be upbeat, cheerful, energized, whip-smart and on top of all the gossip. Last time I saw her, I wasn’t sure she knew who I was.

So, selfishly, I didn’t want to face the fact that she might really not know me anymore. And she sure as hell wouldn’t know Ervin. I could feel my anxiety building in the elevator.

We walked through the door to the TV area of her floor. She was sitting with I’M FROM TEXAS, watching Shirley Temple on TV. MaMa popped up immediately and exclaimed “There they are!” with a big smile. That’s the MaMa I know!

I gave her a hug and she said my name. We introduced Ervin and she seemed happy to see him. All of us.

We stole her from her floor, in a wheelchair, to go sit on the front porch and chat, while surrounded by some nature and fresh air. She’s a gabby gal and I was grateful for that. I’d rather have her run the show. I can recognize all the same tones in her voice – her humor, her questions, her laughter. Except the words are different. So, you kind of guess at what she means, and ride the wave! Ervin was really good at it. Whatever she said, he agreed, or kind of made up more of the story.

When we asked her what place she’d want to travel to (she and my PopPop have been all over the world), she said “Lauren”. Point for MaMa!

There’s a sadness to this scene, for all of us — maybe especially my Dad — it leaves you longing for the time before this one. But it also leads to something that can only be described as the world’s worst church giggles.

My Mom was the first to go down. My Dad, trying to keep the conversation on track, asked my MaMa how she was doing, for the 2nd time, because she had yet to really answer. MaMa replied “Well, you asked me that already!” My Mom, trying to encourage MaMa, said “That’s right! You asked him how he’s doing already”. See the mistake? In trying to correct the situation with MaMa, my Mom kept messing up the sentence, which confused MaMa more, so much so that my Mom started laughing and said “This is like Who’s On First” to which my MaMa replied “Who’s on the ferry?” My Mom looked into her own lap, her face red, shaking with silent laughter.

She looked up at me and mouthed “Don’t look at me”. We’re all trying to keep MaMa feeling good. The worst would be to laugh at the things she doesn’t realize she’s saying.

So, that’s exactly what we did.

My Dad started losing it and when I see my parents laughing so hard that they are shaking and cannot get a word out? I lose it like that too. For about 3 minutes, we were like 5 Alzheimer’s patients, just livin life, laughing at nothing! I’M FROM PENNSYLVANIA!

Finally, we had to go. It’s only bearable because it seems like MaMa might not feel the expanse of time like we do, anymore. We hugged our goodbyes and she held Ervin’s arm to look at his tattoos. Then I told her I loved her. Promised I’d see her in a couple months. She said “I love you too. I’ll love you for the rest of my life.”

XX,

L

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4 Responses to “Alzheimer’s Is For Lovers.”

  1. graceandivy August 24, 2012 at 5:53 PM #

    You always make me cry. I love your stories about your family…they always make my heart melt. Love you girl! xo

  2. Jody August 24, 2012 at 9:33 PM #

    Sweet story, Lauren.

  3. Rennie August 27, 2012 at 5:43 PM #

    Crying! Great post, Lauren, so relatable and love the way you’re able to find the humor in what might be just a sad situation.

  4. tinykitchenstories August 28, 2012 at 1:04 PM #

    Those are tough visits, but you guys got it right–there’s still joy in the world for MaMa, just in a different way! But her parting words to you made me well up a little bit…hope you hugged the dickens out of her. xo

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