My parents, who were the primary care givers to my, at the time, 93 year old grandmother, Sophie, spent a rare night out of town to celebrate my father’s retirement leaving me in charge of Sophie for the evening. I left my kids at home for a change and planned to spend the night at my parents’ house. Dinner dates used to be our thing, but with my Grandmother’s “mature” age and my growing family, it became impossible to make these once regular events happen outside of Sunday family dinners. I was excited to have the opportunity to, in a small way, relive the way we used to be. I brought her a couple of choices for dinner in an attempt to bring some novelty to her world. They were not well received. She promptly scrunched her nose and said she wasn’t hungry. In her chair she sat, regularly dozing off, as I made attempts to engage with her. There was no conversation topic or game show that could hold her attention. Discontent washed over her like a wave at high tide. She wasn’t herself and it scared me. Where was my Gram?
Even before Jeopardy began, Sophie decided it was time for bed. Ok, I said. Let’s do it. She sluggishly rose from her seated position. Sophie pushed her walker to the bottom of the stair case at the speed of a car stuck in rush hour traffic and started making her way up, gripping the railings so tight it was a wonder they stayed secured to the wall. I followed closely behind as her spotter. She counted the steps as she lifted each leg: 1, 2, 3…all the way to 12. Another walker was at the top of the stairs to meet her. We shuffled our way to my childhood bedroom. Hers now for the last 10ish years. An elaborate bedtime routine, I helped her undress and ran back and forth to the kitchen getting all of her cups: one with ice, one with water, and one left empty. She settled into bed with her remote, cough drops, tissues, Tylenol all within an arms reach. I switched her day eye glasses to the pair she used at night and it was then, as I looked into her deep, dark chocolate brown eyes, that I saw a twinkle, her spark. Now in the comfort of her bed, with the intimidating ascent to the second floor behind her, my Gram was back. The storm cloud of anxiety hanging over her head had lifted and Sophie’s bright light emerged. We chatted and laughed about nothing in particular, but the everyday fabric of our lives and snuggled for a solid 45 minutes. She was relaxed and smiley. Such a cutie cuddled in her blankets. Happy to share a few quiet moments with me. Enjoying my undivided attention. I stroked her cheek when I said good night. She leaned into my hand. Her skin – as smooth as silk and so soft. One last hug, nuzzled under her chin, a squeeze of her hand and we both went to bed.
Here we are today. Saying good-bye. My heart is broken. And although I am grateful for all the time we had together, I know I will spend the rest of my life missing her.
Still, I’d like to think the same calm and peace I witnessed transform my Gram on the night of our sleepover is exactly what she is enjoying now and always.