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I was massaging cocoa butter lotion into the dry arms of my 91 year old grandmother, when in a dazzling moment of clarity, she jolted out of Alzheimer’s looked into my eyes and said, “I want to go home.” It startled me as she had been muttering stream of consciousness and gibberish for the past 30 minutes straight. That’s how the disease affects her. I understand it is different for everyone. I put more lotion into my hands and warmed it up, rubbing my own hands together, and went back to massaging her hands now, trying to straighten out her gnarled fingers. Someone had painted her nails red some time ago by the chipped look of them. I am assuming it was one of the CNAs. I doubt it was either one of my wicked aunts. They earned the title of, “wicked” because they stole her money, bought televisions with it, refurnished their homes, and threw her into the cheapest nursing home they could find.
The red chipped nails gave me something to focus on, as I was starting to get emotionally overwhelmed and angry at this whole situation-that the matriarch of a huge family was put in a dump like this.
I tried to straighten out her hands, as I sang old gospel hymns to her. My mother and father were a little lost as to how one should react in the situation. My mother reading parts of the book of Ruth aloud seemed rather weird. She didn’t quite know how to handle it all I think, and reading the Bible to Grandma seemed the right thing to do in her mind. My father just kept asking questions like it was an interrogation-what is your name? What is my name? What year is it? All he needed was a steel chair and a lone lightbulb hanging on a string and he would have been ready for central casting. We even resorted to singing Jingle Bells at one point just to try to see some recognition. Grandma stopped talking and listened to the songs. She wouldn’t join in but we could tell she liked them from her changed smile.
I had to tell my grandmother, “this is your home now. Your other daughters took your old home.” I’m over covering for grown wicked women. My
Mother, Father and I sat with my grandmother for four hours.
Grandmother had her home taken from her.
On our way down it hit me my mother was returning to her home.
On the drive down from Louisville, my mother had a constant commentary running of “so and so used to live there” and comments like “Food Lion didn’t exist in my day. We had A&P.” These reminded me that my mother was home.
Home is where you are loved, and safe, and cherished.
As we left the nursing home I didn’t want to leave her. When I kissed grandmother on the head, she looked at me and started repeating, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.” She also snuck in an, “I love you.”
It was rough to leave her. I cannot begin to imagine going from completely independent-living on your own (at 80) and then a short time later you’re in adult diapers repeating yourself.
What is home, when you don’t feel safe, loved and cherished? Yeah we drove down and spent four hours there, but after we leave, she will be alone again. Even though she has literally hundreds (I mean it) of relatives in her town…
Cling to your inner sense of home. Your loved ones. You never know how soon your life can change, and sense of home inside may sustain you anywhere.