Monday, November 17, 2014

When Happiness and Sadness Collide

Beverly Joann Smith - daughter, sister, aunt, friend, mom, grandmother and great-grandmother.

A soul that my son will never get to fully understand and love.

My Grandma got to meet Caleb for the first time last Monday afternoon.  To say my heart was happy is an understatement.

My Grandma and I have always been close.  Hell, for 5 years we lived together with my mom.  3 generations of women all living together in a house - annoying at times, crazy often and loving always.

My whole life I remember my mom telling everyone that I am just like my grandma.  We are both night owls and both love ice cream and pickles.  When I was little I just giggled and let it go.  Now that I am an adult and really understand everything, I think "What an honor!"

My grandma was born and raised in a small town in Illinois right off the Mississippi River.  She met my grandpa and they traveled the country courtesy of the United States Air Force.  She had 2 kids 13 months apart and then followed them up with 2 more.  Her and my grandpa were married for over 30 years and then went their separate ways - for the better.

My grandma found a boyfriend and after retiring moved to Oregon when I was 1.  She lived with her boyfriend of 20+ years in a little town just north of the border.  My mom and I - and our dog - would go visit her at least once a month for many many years.  Although the drive North wasn't always the greatest, once we were there it was wonderful.  My grandma would spoil us and that is when I knew that we had something special.

My grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in 2007.  I remember the day we decided that she would come live with us.  My mom was in the process of buying her house and my grandma had gone to Illinois for a trip with my aunt.  She returned from Illinois, my aunts and uncles drove up to Oregon to pack up her house and down she came and moved in with us.

For the next 3 years we lived as a 3 generational family.  My mom would go to work and I would go off to college and my grandma would stay home and hang out with our dog.  I would bring us lunch home after classes everyday and we would watch whatever dance show we had recorded.

In 2012, my grandma's condition got worse and it was getting too hard on my mom to care for her completely any longer.  As a family we all made the hard decision to put her into an assisted living home.  She would still come to family functions and we would go visit her.  She was slowly getting worse and worse everyday.

The time came where my grandma needed more care than she was getting where she was.  My family, once again, made the decision to move her, this time to her final home.  Grandma has declined more rapidly and is no longer able to leave her home.  She still gets visitors, almost daily, but is at the point where she has a hard time remembering who people are.  She can't name any of us, I don't think, but understands that we are her family when we remind her.

I made the decision to take Caleb there last Monday.  I wanted her and him to meet, even if neither one of them will ever remember it - the moment where happiness and sadness collide.  I wanted there to be a picture - my Grandma and my baby.  I wanted him to always have a picture of his great-grandma and so that someday when he asks me about her I can tell him all about her.

He will never get to fully understand or love her...and in a way I feel as though I didn't either.  I didn't realize how special she was until it was almost too late.  My Grandma, a woman who has been taken over by Alzheimer's, but who will always be a part of our life.

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