"Dementia stole my friend."
It was a beautiful spring day as I walked into the nursing home. I knew a special lady there and I always enjoyed visiting with her. I would visit with her for about an hour at a time. She would never speak but would just stare at me. It wasn't always like that, but many years have passed now since she has spoken.
My friend had developed Dementia quite a few years ago; though, she did have a family of her own. Then one day, she started forgetting things, repeating herself and quite often, would wander out late at night, not knowing where she was or who she was.
Her family would receive phone calls telling them, that they had just found their mom wandering the streets in the early hours of the morning.
The family got together and had to admit, mom has Dementia. They went through the usual tests just to confirm that their suspicions were valid. When their mom went for tests, of course, she denied that there was anything wrong with her memory.
A beautiful lady, who loved God and people so much, the doctor suggested that only one grandchild should visit her at a time. The excitement and stress would be too much for her.
There was a time though when one of her granddaughters was visiting with her parents. Her granddaughter picked up a pen from her cabinet and her grandma ran over and slapped her on the hand.
Of course, immediately, the granddaughter started crying. The parents were so upset, that the grandma had struck out at their daughter. Since that event, the granddaughter never ever wanted to visit her grandma again, that is, for fear of being slapped. It was sad, but the real life of living or visiting with someone who has Dementia. The doctor had told the family, that she had a form of violent Dementia. I guess some people with Dementia can quickly become very angry.
I had known this lady very well over the years; I knew very well, that this wasn't her true nature. She was a very kind and compassionate person to everyone that she would meet, especially her grandchildren. it's just how the Dementia had affected her mind.
As I visited with her over the years, her conversation became less and less, until eventually, she didn't speak anymore. As I looked at her, I reminisced about the times when we would look out the window at the rain pouring down, and how we would see the rainbow form in the sky.
Even though everyone had thought that her mind was gone. She would talk about the times when her family was young, the times when she would see them off to school. When they came home, how she would make muffins and give them a glass of milk.
She told about how the children would go out and play until the sun went down. They would come in and have a hot chocolate with their cookie before she would tuck them into bed. It was nice to listen to all the old memories that she had, all churning around in the back of her mind.
She told me about all the knitting that she did scarves, sweaters, hats, and mittens. She would crochet blankets and various other items. Then she chuckled at all the homemade cookies they would eat, she told me, that at one point, she thought about buying a cow, her kids drank so much milk.
As she sat there in her room staring at me, I thought of all those things she had told me, about all the times that she had reminisced. Now it was a cold silence in the room. No laughter, no smiles, no talking, just quiet.
I am so glad I listened to her when she spoke, I am glad I recorded all her words in my mind. During those last days and her silence, I looked at her with great pity, I was able to reflect on all the things she had expressed about the times gone by.
I remember one day when it was snowing, she told me about the snowball fights they had in the yard. The snowmen they had made over the years, the carrots, the buttons and hats and scarves to keep the snowmen warm, how funny that was, it was a warm story even though it was about winter.
Then she reflected on Christmas, carol singing, the Santa thing and the entire gift opening at 5:a.m. on Christmas morning. She said, "I can't get them up on school days to go to school, but on Christmas morning they're all up at 5:a.m". She tried so hard to laugh, as tears rolled down her face. I knew she was wishing for those days now.
Very often she spoke about her kids, how things had changed. How they had all got married and had kids of their own. She felt like she was put into a nursing home because of the inconvenience of having her around their homes. The last thing she wanted was to be a burden on her family.
"You know, I remember brushing my daughter's hair when she was a little girl", she said. "I would give them all baths and tuck them into bed. Then we would all say our prayers and I would give them all a goodnight kiss. But, those days are all gone now and I'm left alone, I don't see them very often, they all have their own lives to live".
I'm sure her family visited her more often than she could remember, but to her, it wasn't enough. I could only feel sorry for her. I know that each time I visited, I never did see any family members around, maybe she was right.
I remember her very last words to me, that is before she had stopped speaking for good. This is what she told me, she said, "when people pass me by, they see me staring at the wall, they think I'm insane and have lost my mind. Yet, as I'm staring, I'm not staring at the walls. I'm sitting thinking of the past, reminiscing about how life used to be before my mind started to fail me. Of the times I had with my brothers and sisters, of the lovely times I had with my husband before he passed away. The times I had with my own children. The celebrations, birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, times with friends, those are the things that are going through my mind".
She went on to say, "one day soon though, my family will get the call, your mom has passed away. I will finally be gone to my home on high; at last, I will not be alone".
As she sat there in silence I thought of the last words she had spoken. I couldn't help but think of the times she cuddled her children, the muffins, the celebration dinners and all those times that she had cherished in her heart.
As she stared at me in silence with her beautiful brown eyes and golden colored her. I got up and put my arms around her and said, "I love you, I'll see you tomorrow". As I stepped back from hugging her, I noticed a tear that came flowing down her cheek as an expression of saying, "I love you too".
Written by Chris Turner
October 12th, 2016.