Of dementia. This face. My grandmother’s face. Helen.
She’s in her late 80s and she and my grandfather have been married almost 70 years. This is a face four years in the making. Several years ago, she fell and broke her hip. From working clinicals in a nursing home, I knew that it would be the beginning of the end. Sometime later, she broke her pelvic bone. She can no longer walk very well on her own. She sits in a chair most the time. My grandfather is her caretaker. He, too, is in his late 80s.
They have always had the kind of marriage that I would have hoped to have. It .is rare to be married as long as they have been. At least in today’s day and age. They bicker. They love. At least once upon a time. These days, he loves and she fights. I know that somewhere in that mind she is aware of what is going on and she’s angry. She’s scared and my grandpa catches the brunt of that….because he is the one that is there and he’s the one that stands by her side.
This face doesn’t recognize me most the time. When she does, she remembers the child me. The one with pigtails. She once said I was too young to talk to her when my grandpa tried to give her the phone. I laughed, because I knew….and it was okay. She’s still my grandmother, but now she is also someone else. The hardest thing for me sometimes is watching my dad.
For the longest time, he was in denial. Everyone, but me, was. They thought that it was just the meds that she was on. I tried to tell them the truth, but you cannot tell people what they do not want to hear. Now it is evident. Every time he is there. Every time my grandpa calls so that my daddy and convince grandma that he is alive and well. She confuses him with my uncle, whom is dying of cancer. That will be another post another time, one that may or may not have pictures.
I became one of those people who let life get in the way. I never meant to be that person, but it happened anyway. In small part because of finances. They live in Illinois, which is only a short drive from here but $50 a gas tank makes it difficult to travel there often. Working as much makes it difficult. I know I am not alone on this, and this was not a whine. It is reality. It has made me that little girl who my grandmother remembers, because that is the one she saw the most. Even a younger 20ish me. but not the adult me. The one that let life get in the way.
I apologize. I think that the feelings that I have tried to muster up, were actually hidden and came to the surface when I look at these pictures. I took them, yes, but there is a difference between taking them and looking at them. They didn’t turn out the way that I wanted. The lighting in my grandparents’ house is very yellowish and without flash, I struggled to get the lighting to do just what I wanted. Post editing made them even more frustrating and so I chose to go the black and white method.
The first picture of this post is my favorite. It is also the most heart wrenching for me, because I think that is the most powerful image that I could have taken of her. The colored one has the emotion, but the one posted…it is the emotion.
I have not known what to say. I have felt cold and heartless, because I’ve not had the words. Maybe it is because the grandma that she has become, I was prepared. I knew. Maybe it is because life did get in the way and I’m not directly affected, because I do not see her everyday. Maybe it is just the reality and I didn’t know what to say, because there is nothing to say. What can you say? My heart hurts, but sadly I am at that age in life where these moments are inevitable. That is why I will just cherish what I have and just remember that everyday she is here is a blessing, but that it is also hard on her and that it is okay for her to let go. But until she is ready, I will just smile and hold her hand and remind her every time that she ask that I am indeed her granddaughter.
I don’t know if you made it to the bottom. If you did, I don’t know what you took away from this post. I am not even sure that it conveyed what I wanted. Power. Emotion. Time. I just hope that whatever your day has in store that it is a beautiful one, today and tomorrow.
Montana Rose Photography