Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Home Sweet Home?
My grandparents live relatively close to us. When they go to their winter home, we keep an eye on the place, start the cars, check pipes and that kind of thing. We've done this for 17 years. We noticed something needed replaced there so we ordered the part and got it the other day and Sunday we headed over to replace it.
Last year when they went, Grandma didn't recognize the home they bought the year before. She became scared and agitated and wanted to come home. So three days later they packed up and spent the winter here. Grandpa wasn't happy because if it was up to him, he'd leave in October and come back in May. But keeping her calm was the objective and honestly, we were glad they were back. They're really not in any condition to be so far away in a new neighborhood where they haven't established relationships with people yet to look after each other. So it was like they never really went last year. This year she seems to be adjusting and they've been gone for two weeks so all looks good for Grandpa to enjoy his escape to warmer weather. I think he knows it may be their last time down there.
You know that saying about making a house a home? There are many things that go into that from the way you decorate to the smells that people's homes have to the energy in the house. Even when people aren't there, there is an energy to a space left by the people who live there.
While the Mr was working in the garage, I went in the house to check on things. I've always loved the smell in there. You know how older folks homes smell? Well, their home doesn't smell all antiquey or anything but it's a smell that if it was bottled I'd know it was their house. It's a scent I can't put my finger on mixed with Grandma's favorite perfume, White Diamonds. I noticed immediately while it still smelled pretty much the same, something was different. It didn't smell as heavily of White Diamonds. This means she's not putting it on and he's not putting it on her. I went over to her jewelry box I used to obsess over as a kid and opened the drawers. She moved most of her jewelry to a bigger one she got but the little flippy piece inside still had this old frosted apple necklace I seem to remember from childhood. I checked the closets and saw old sheets she had in the 80's that I thought were so fancy back then. I saw the old hamper that sat in her room as long as I can remember in their closet sitting empty. In the guest room, old Christmas decorations including a blue church that lit up. She always sat it on angel hair. Remember that stuff? It would cut you if you weren't careful! I learned that the hard way.
I checked the new messages on the machine and one of them was from the cemetery telling them the deed to their graves was ready. I broke down. I was glad they were planning ahead but this sealed it that he knows this needed to be done. As I was looking at all of this stuff in the house, I had the worst feeling. I was overwhelmed with sadness. She was gone. The difference between watching her house from the last time we did it over the whole winter to this time is the last time she was just starting her journey with dementia but all of the things that made up her personality were still there. This time, I might be lucky for a single moment of her old personality before she drifts off. This time when she comes home, she won't be coming home. It felt like going through the house of someone who had passed away.
This isn't one of those things that can be remedied with a peppy "but she's still HERE, you need to enjoy her while she's here" from someone who hasn't gone through it. Trust me, she's not here anymore. Those going through it know that once their personality is gone either from the disease or the meds that keep them in that haze, that it is like going through a slow death. I felt compelled to go through her cookbooks and take pics of the 2-3 recipes she had handwritten in there. I took pics of the ceramic "Marilyn" her mother made in class and is slated to go to me as I've been obsessed with it since childhood and she wrote my name on the bottom years ago. I took pics of great grandma's cookbook that goes to my mom, which is funny because she does NOT cook but I know it's the sentimentality of it all. It's just the most surreal thing to be mourning the loss of someone who is still alive. It was also like there was a heaviness in the air...like the sadness and toll this is taking on my Grandpa is leaving it's mark on the house. I don't know how to describe it but the house is changed. It feels like if it could cry, it would. I know that sounds insane and I hope no one ever has to know what it feels like to walk into their parents or grandparents home and feel that change.
(This post is part of a "series" I do to help educate others about families living with a loved one suffering through dementia/Alzheimers. You can read more here, here, here and here. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with this disease, please consider getting the book The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss. This book was recommended by my grandma's neurologist and it is amazingly informative in what to expect with the disease. It is available in book, Kindle or audiobook form and is highly recommended by our family)
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