The day after my mom was given her death sentence, I went up to the Valley to visit my grandma.
Still shaken by the shock of the news, I wanted solace in the embrace of a person I loved and had known my whole life. I wanted to share the terrible news with someone who cared and knew my mom.
We sat together at a table, over lunch, and I said, “Grandma, you know, my mom’s really sick.”
She sat there, unfazed for a moment, and then inquired, “Oh. Do you think I should go visit her?”
Holding back the tears, I smiled for a quick moment, amused by the irony of her offer. She was, after all, well into an advanced case of Alzheimer’s at that point, confined to the Los Angeles Jewish Home where she could be cared for and cared to. She no longer remembered my mom, but she faked it well. She certainly was in no position to go visit.
But, despite the ravages of her lost identity, she still had the vestiges of sympathy and concern, offering to be there to help soothe someone else’s pain.
In that moment, at the table, I shook my head. “No, I don’t think you need to visit her, grandma.” I said. “I think she’ll be OK.” I knew she wouldn’t.
She looked me in the eye, reached out and grabbed my hand. “Are you going to cry now?” She asked. I did.
I haven’t seen my grandma since that June morning. Between the move to Dallas and mourning of my own mom, I’ve had to cling to news and updates from my dad about his.
My grandma breathed her last breath this morning, at 3:52 AM, surrounded by the immensely large family of which she was matron. We knew it was coming, inevitable, but it still stings to lose someone. And it aches to watch my dad lose his mom, because I know just how awful an experience that is, and I don’t want anyone that I love to have to live through it. So I’ll be there, to help him walk down mourning’s path. The role-reversal feels odd, but also oddly soothing.
My grandma’s mom herself lost all semblances of her memory, for almost ten years before her passing. I remember, as a kid, visiting my great grandma with her, sitting at a table with the shell of a woman, incognizant of who or where she was. As we left that visit, I asked my grandma, “How do you deal with seeing your mom like that?”
“My mom’s already dead,” she said to me. “I said goodbye to her years ago.”
And such it was, in ways, with my grandma as well. She began her departure many years back. She’s been all-but-gone for a few now. But today she left this earth.
Yet despite Alzheimer’s toll, she was still my grandma, still alive, she was still my dad’s mom, a woman who, even in her dementia, could reach out and ask if she should go pay a visit to my sick mom, could put her hand on mine and ask if I was going to cry.
This morning, grandma, I cry for you. Sondra Audrey Singer, you will be missed.