Madness

I love Thanksgiving. I hear all the time how people hate it because there’s so much drama or something. There are movies where that is the entire premise of the movie. However, I love Thanksgiving because of the madness. My relatives in Chicago drive their way down to Paducah, Kentucky while my mom and sisters (and once upon a time me as well) would drive up from Atlanta. We would meet at the Drury Inn (one time La Quinta) in the middle of nowhere Kentucky to celebrate Thanksgiving and(!!) Christmas because handing all the presents out in person is far cheaper than mailing them. Eventually November through January birthdays were included as well. We would all have rooms next to each other, one year even having two rooms connected by a door inside the rooms. We’d run back and forth between the rooms trying to find people to play cards, go to Walmart, go to the mall, watch a movie, see who’s ready for insert anything you need pants on for, etc. Having to search the dining area in the lobby when you couldn’t find someone in the rooms… It was madness and I loved it.

Then my grandma, who brought the tiny Christmas tree, who brought homemade chocolate chip cookies that were so flat the chips actually stood up like mounds in them, inside whose room we opened presents… died. She was diagnosed in February the year before with Alzheimer’s to the shock of everyone. This was someone who skipped two grades in school and had been living on her own, taking care of herself since her husband’s death twenty-five years prior. And she was so fit! She had always been athletic- track as a kid and roller-skating while ballroom dancing as a senior- we thought she had so many more years… but by February of the next year she was in a home, so upset, so mad we took away her car, then her condo, and finally her independence.

For a few months you could tell she didn’t belong. She was so bored just walking around like whatever. The staff certainly had their hands full because she kept trying to help or do something and kept doing it wrong. She had trouble coming up with words, something I’m guilty of now, but never my embarrassingly, vocal grandmother. (She was talking about a guy’s ears as we stood right behind him in the movie ticket line. It was awful. I swear he heard- her whispering might as well have been softly speaking.) Then she had trouble walking. Then she fell down and we were informed she absolutely could not walk and must use a wheelchair. She didn’t like that much to the chagrin of whoever visited, but she eventually accepted it as long as she had full control of it. No pushing. Then she was having trouble swallowing.. And then it finally happened.

We were outside because it was a gorgeous day. We had walked around the building to the seating area and she wasn’t able to talk much at all at this point so we just tried to decode the grunts to see if she was happy. We were sitting and talking when grandma wanted to move again. She was heading to a side door and we were trying to get her because that’s an emergency door. And that’s when she started fighting. She was having what I guess everyone calls an episode. We ran to the door which was locked. The nurses could see us but it seems no one had a key. but there was a keypad. No one knew the code. I ran around the building to get help because that’s all I could do in that situation. When I got inside I saw they got the door open but Grandma was trying to bite Aunt Joy’s hands. Aunt Joy started saying over and over again “It’s me Mom, it’s Joy.” And suddenly she.. woke up, I guess. She was so confused. From the little bit I could distinguish it seems like she remembered all that just happened but it was like someone else’s memory. She looked up at me and very clearly asked “What happened?” …. I wonder if it calmed or scared her more when I answered ‘You just forgot Grandma. It’s all okay now.” She just looked so confused, as I suppose someone who just regained control of their body would be. I have the show Supernatural running through my head now.

The last time I saw her, she was overwhelmed. She was trying to tell us something or get something across and was “upsetting herself” as they would say. I interrupted to try and distract her by saying “Grandma, I love you!” She looked at me and said “I love you too” but her eyes weren’t energetic or passionate. They were weary and defeated.

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