My Grandma suffers from dementia and has been placed in an constant care facility. I have been up to visit a few times but it doesn’t feel like I am visiting someone I know. She seems to know who I am by the way she waves at me when I come in. She may be waving at me or the guy she knows that brings her strawberry Menchies. She never says my name anymore but she talks about people in the family. Lexi came with me today and Grandma talked about Marcy being outside and cousin Tracy was in the attic. She couldn’t remember Lexi’s name but introduced her as her granddaughter. In between mouthfuls of frozen yogurt she told us stories about the baby in the office and how she was going home today.
I love seeing her and I know our visits are limited but I feel so depressed in that building I can hardly stand to be in there. It’s a scene out of the Walking Dead with Zombies wandering about, slowly and sure footed, staring blankly ahead. Contained only by and elevator they can’t manipulate on their own. It’s down button covered by a piece of plexi-glass with a small hole drilled in and lined up with the button. Lexi watched a nurse use a straw in the hole to call the elevator and summoned it herself on our way out but to it’s residents a complex puzzle.
I sit amazed just watching. Today they gathered around a TV to watch some vintage Barbara Streisand movie. It was just like when Rick was stuck in the tank and zombies all zeroed in on him. Then when the elevator opened and we stepped out a few heads tuned into us and one was Grandma. From our table I watched as some walked patterns and others slept in chairs not even waking up to cough. One came to us immediately, drawn to Lexi like a poppy in a field of grass. One who walked a pattern yelled from the hallway “SHUT UP!” and then just hobbled around keeping to herself, not saying a word. It looked difficult for her to get around but she didn’t stop moving the entire time we were there. Eventually she passed our table closely and as she passed whispered softly and without looking at me “your child is beautiful”. Her back was already to me as I said “thank you…”. She went on walking aimlessly as if all these bodies were empty just bumping off one another completely unaware of each other.
Another lady with a walker came over and sat down right beside me. She said “It looks like your little girl likes this movie.” “Yes”, I said. Then she said “I’m just going to sit here next to you and when this is over you can get me outta here!”
Not long after that a lady in a wheelchair came over and couldn’t get by the walker. When she went to move my grandma became agitated and yelled at her that it wasn’t her walker and to leave it alone. She seemed really annoyed. I wondered how often she was in these conflicts. Another lady who really seemed to have her wits about her wheeled over another really agitated lady who pointed a finger sort of in my direction and asked me if I was her brother. I was confused at first and just shook my head NO and he asked the lady pushing her what I looked like but before she could answer she said “it’s not him, he would be hugging me right now if it was him…it’s not him…” – I had no idea what to say but my heart broke for her. I hoped he was coming.
When it was time to leave I put on Lexi’s jacket and told Grandma we were heading out and she said “OK let me grab my coat”. I explained she couldn’t come and Lexi pushed her back in front of the tank with the others. I pulled her up in her chair again to straighten her up and we hugged and kissed her goodbye. Lexi called the elevator with the straw like magic and as the door closed in front of us she waved again with Lexi’s paper gold medal in her hand.
A woman who worked there stopped me on the way out and asked my relation to my grandma and I told her. She said to me “she’s the best! Has she always been so funny?” – “More than you know…” I told her, “more than you know!”.
I looked for her in the window on the way out because she used to like watching the people come and go but I don’t think she could get there on her own. I wondered if she was in there today, I mean really in there.