I have written about bravery, curiousity, and about courage before. The quote from Seneca, "Even to live is an act of courage," resonates in my mind like a mantra and has been ever present lately. There's a lot going on in my life that has me facing insecurities and doubts. And I feel like I am in a cycle of heartache as I talk to my parents as they try to deal with my grandmother's illness and to my grandmother herself who is suffering from dementia.
Last week, my grandmother turned 84. I called her to wish her Happy Birthday. She was happy to hear from me, knew (kind of) who I was but she said she only just remembered it was her birthday. We chatted about the weather, about pie and fresh fruit. She told me a story about a birthday from her childhood and then said goodbye.
This week, she moved into assisted living which will give her more concentrated care. And though I know it is the best place for her, it saddens me that she has to leave her house, that it has come to this. I miss her terribly and each time I talk to her I do the best I can to embrace who she is now. But it breaks my heart each time to know that the woman I knew, the woman who taught me so much is... well, gone. I don't know if any of you have had to care for someone who suffers Alzheimer's or dementia or how you manage such a wrenching illness.
Seneca was right. We face so much on a daily basis, choosing to wake up and live, really, really live is courageous. I think it must be so for my Gran who spends her days often confused, pieces of the puzzle of her life missing. I will continue to reach out to her, to let her know I am here, loving her, thinking of her, even when she doesn't remember who I am. And I will continue to remember the woman who washed my hair in the sink with peach shampoo, and then braided it while the smell of gumbo filled the kitchen, the woman who loves fiercely and quietly, who taught me to be confident and live with conviction. I learned to make cornbread and how to make the perfect pitcher of iced-tea in her kitchen. I stood at her counters with my friends waiting for oven pizzas to crust perfectly. I will remember how when she was mad at you, she refused to speak to you (like when the pizza you were making dripped cheese all over a fresh batch of cornbread muffins). I remember her in the yard, tending to roses with my grandfather the first year I lived with them. I was young and selfish and had no time to help or to learn how the roses grew so large. Later, after my grandfather died, so did some of the roses, no matter how we tried to coax them into survival.
Even to live, is an act of courage.
The stories of my grandmother are ones she no longer remembers. I have to remember, to hold on, for us both.