You'll have to forgive my lack of post last week. It was a strange week, full of bad news. Terry, long time friend and client of my Dad's, passed away after a long, tortured battle with colon cancer, while still in his fifties. I discovered that my friend, and former college housemate, Katie, was stabbed by a mentally unstable thirteen year old boy, in her apartment building. Thankfully, she is going to make a full recovery, but I was very preoccupied with thoughts of her during the week. It's a terrifying thing to ponder.
It was certainly a time to contemplate the possibilities of loss. Sadly, today is no different, as May 18th marks the second anniversary of the passing of my Nana. It seems hard to believe that it has been that long, but at the same time, I have been experiencing the loss of my Nana for such a long time that it feels like she’s been gone from my life for much longer.That is what Alzheimer’s does to its victims – it robs the afflicted of everything that made them who they were, while leaving an empty husk of a body as a cruel reminder of what has been stolen from you as a loved one.
Nana started getting sick when I was still very young. It crept up slowly; there was the time we sat in the parking lot at Walmart for at least fifteen minutes while she tried to figure out how to start the car. A few years later she was confusing me for my aunt Carolyn. The time that we had together was brief and long ago, and it is hard for me to remember much about her. I can’t recall anything that she ever cooked, despite the fact my dad and his sisters rhapsodize about her homemade pies and her lasagna.
I don’t remember most of what we did together on my annual summer visit, besides watching The Young and the Restless on television, and playing Scrabble around the kitchen table. She was an avid player, and I could barely spell at all, so she ended up playing most of my moves for me. I still remember one occasion when the best word she could think of was “tit,” and she sat and ruminated about whether she should spell a “dirty” word in a game with her young grandchild. Embarrassed, she placed the tiles on the board, and when I asked her what the word meant, she turned a deep shade of red and told me. Looking back, on the spectrum of dirty words “tit” is pretty mild, but that was the kind of gentle soul that Nana possessed.
What I remember the best about Nana are the important things: the way she smelled, the way she felt when she gave me a hug, and the overriding sensation of being loved. When I think about my cousins, who are all significantly younger than me, I often feel sad that they never got the opportunity to know Nana the way that I did. For them, she will always be the vacant woman in the nursing home, and the stories told to them by their mothers.But if there was one thing I could pass along to them from my experiences, it would be for them to know how much she loved being a grandmother, and the boundless unconditional love she would have had for them.
Perhaps my fondest memory of Nana was a little game we used to play together. It went a little something like this:
“I love you, Nana”
“I love you too.”
“I love you more!”
“Well, I love you the most!”
“No, I love you the most!” (Even at an early age, I couldn’t stand to lose an argument.)
“Nope, that’s impossible, I love you the most!”
This exchange would continue endlessly, often culminating in tickling and peals of giggles on my part. Sometimes she would win, and sometimes she would let me win the great debate. In reality, no matter who won any given game of “I love you the most,” the real winner was always Nana, because she was capable loving more than any tiny child’s heart ever could.