Next week my Grandmother, Lettie Fae Lowder – GG to her family – will turn 93, and as the saying goes, turning 93 beats the alternative despite all the challenges that come with each passing year. That saying doesn't begin to address the subleties of dealing with the changes that each stage of life brings, but my Aunt Debbie does a wonderful job of addressing those issues in a post on her blog about dealing with GG's increasing dementia and her move to a new wing at her retirement home that offers closer care:
The biggest difference for GG at this stage of life is the power of imagination she substitutes for loss of vision and hearing, and what we usually refer to as “being in touch with reality.” I guess she’s getting bored with some of the stories we’ve all heard about a gazillion times, so she is gracious enough to create some new stories for our entertainment. If you’ve not yet heard of Pony Boy you really should spend a little time with GG. Pull up a rocker and ask a few questions and off you go to the barn and beyond…
She still remembers each of us, but many, many details are lost to her. The line between fact and fantasy is sometimes clear and sometimes thin….very thin. This is part of an aging process we are all experiencing. We’re just at a different place…for this moment. Mom’s life’s-work has changed from being a daughter to young wife and mother, to working woman, to grandmother…even great-great grandmother. It’s usually easier to see the meaning and purpose of our life during these earlier stages. And harder to understand the meaning and purpose of life in the latter stages.
One way I try to understand Mom’s purpose at this time is that of Preparation for Death…the process of dieing. And part of this process is leaving the care of this world and its inhabitants to others… after she takes her leave of us. She asks constantly, “what are the children doing?” She actually needs to know what we are doing so she can stop her doing.
Mom cannot see to read. She no longer has a telephone because her hearing and memory render a phone fairly useless. When I heard she would now be living in a supervised (“locked”) environment, I panicked. Her world had already seemed unjustly small. Now it seemed another door…a locked one…was closing.
I took a deep breath. The 2-hour drive from the farm gave me plenty of time to remember lots of times when Mom was young and strong and…well, greatly determined. I walked into the lobby and where I would have turned left to go to her room, I walked straight to the locked doors and rang the door bell. A door opened.
Mom looked pretty content and believed she was living in Old Salem. (she loves Old Salem) The staff is loving and fun. She always refers to me as the fun one…I want her to have lots of fun one’s. Because actually, I am not that much fun…she needs a lot more fun than I can conjure up! Her room is large and pretty and peaceful…and near the staff”s laughter and loving oversight. I was scared to walk down that hall…into a new phase of life…but it wasn’t that hard. Mom is there….just not like she used to be. I am there…changed, for sure. And many others are willing to explore this time of life with us…thank you. We are all teachers and we are all learning. We all hope and we all know fear. We are not alone. Mom has a great capacity for the subtleties of life….don’t be afraid to speak of these things. And don’t be surprised if she is able to cut more quickly to the truth of the matter…thus unraveling our carefully formed beliefs about what is real.
What a beautiful way to look at GG's new adventure. I'm sure my Aunts, who have done a lot of heavy lifting with GG's care over the last few years, might have moments when it's hard to see things in such a light, but they've also done a great job of sharing the Adventures of GG and Pony Boy with the rest of us so I'm fairly confident they feel the same way.
The wonders of family will never cease to amaze.