The mind is a mysterious beast

This is something I’ve wanted to write about for quite some time and I’m finally in a place where I’m OK to at least talk about it. It’s on the heavy-side, so forgive me for starting off your week on such a sullen note. I’m sure some of you can {unfortunately} relate to this experience, so I thought it was time to release the word vomit.

The mind is a mysterious beast.

I’ve been unlucky enough to face the scary and debilitating truth of someone you love “losing” their mind. I’m not talking about going to crazy-town after making a pit-stop in looney-ville. That’s an entirely different story.
I’m talking about losing the parts of your mind that make you who you are.
I’m talking about losing the memories and experiences that have formed your life and your place in it.
I’m talking about walking around the home you’ve lived in for over 50 years, without the ability to recognize that it’s your ‘home’.
Old age, dementia, Alzheimer’s… no matter what you call it or how it’s ‘clinically’ diagnosed… it sucks.

My maternal grandmother was always a fun-loving, active, silly, talented, and sophisticated inspiration. She was a brilliant painter, seamstress, and cook, made the world’s best dinner rolls and cinnamon buns, and always insisted you enjoyed seconds at dinner. But unfortunately, she doesn’t remember all of those wonderful attributes and it’s truly heartbreaking to sit and wonder where that person has gone. The mind is a mysterious beast.

2-3 years ago we started to see signs that something beyond just ‘getting older’ was affecting her memory. Things beyond just forgetting the date or now realizing that you’ve now told your husband the same story three times {heck, I do that}. Now, the same person who loved celebrating {and never forgot} my birthday because she remembered me running around telling everyone it was on “JOON TWELF”, now has to ask “Who is this?” when she looks at my wedding picture. The same person whose beautiful paintings are hanging on the walls of my home, my parent’s home, and my brother’s home {to name a few} now is amazed when she learns that she is the one who painted them. The same person who would smile and talk me through things as I watched in amazement while she made her famous cinnamon buns now can’t remember how to make breakfast.
What happened? Where did she go? Did she disappear completely or is she still in there somewhere wondering why everything is different now?

From time to time we will see glimpses of her humor or specs of remembrance from her childhood that remind us she is still the same Gamma.
When we ask her what flavor of cake she wants, and she responds with “both” as if we are silly for even asking.
When she looks at a side table in the living room and says, “You know who made this? My daddy made this.”
Those are the moment when we see the woman she used to be. Perhaps still is, but she’s unable to get out.

The mind is a mysterious beast.

Because things have progressed {or regressed, in this case} so quickly, it’s been difficult to wrap my head around it all. It’s hard to really understand how someone who was always on the move, whether it was cooking, walking around the neighborhood, or just cleaning up around the house, now sleeps the majority of the day. It’s impossible to understand how the person who was so excited to hear from me when I called her on her birthday last year, probably wouldn’t know who she was talking to if I talked to her today. It’s not fair that the home I remember LOVING to visit during the summer as a child is now just a house, since 1/2 of the duo that made it so bright and joyful can no longer take care of it, or herself.

It’s hard.
It’s impossible.
It’s not fair.
The mind is a mysterious beast.

I probably sound like a broken record to those of you who have dealt with this, or are currently dealing with it, in your family.  My husband’s grandmother has been slowly ‘losing her mind’ for many, many years now and while a part of me wishes I could have known her when she was the happy-go-lucky grandmother he remembers {there are still glimpses of that person too – she has the best sense of humor}, the other part is thankful I didn’t have to watch the disappearance from the start. She never really knew who I was, so I don’t get the same heartache when she shows me the Christmas present that I made her and asks, “Did you see this? Isn’t this nice?” That doesn’t mean the heartache was never there, or isn’t still in some way, but the circumstances have allowed his family to adapt to things more gradually, so the difficulty can be buffered with laughter and a sense that this is now ‘the norm’.

I’m not there yet.

I don’t know if I will ever be there. It’s actually kind of impossible to imagine a time when I’ll be okay with it all. I’ve gotten to a point where I can avoid tears when my mom calls to update me on the latest thing she’s forgotten, but then again I’m currently writing this with giant puddles in my eyes, making it very difficult to see my spelling errors, so what does that say about my level of “being ok”?

The mind is a mysterious beast for sure, and the idea of not having full control over your own is terrifying. This kind of thing is often passed down through the generations by the women of the family, so will my mother and I suffer the same fate? Will Keelin decades from now? Dear God, I hope not.
Is there a way to prevent it from happening all together, or at least get a few more ‘good’ years in before the disappearing act begins? Do ‘brain teasers’ and memory games really make a difference? Should I eat less chocolate, drink less sweat tea, spend less times staring at a computer screen? Who knows.

All I know is that I’m not okay. Not yet. And I miss my grandmother.

Until next time…

27 thoughts on “The mind is a mysterious beast

  1. Thanking you so much for sharing Sara! My Great Grandmother went through the same thing. It was heartbreaking to watch her sharp mind betray her in the end. She just wasn’t the same person. It was the hardest in the beginning because she new she was losing it. I will be praying for you and your family as you are there for her!

  2. Wow thank you for sharing that Sara! My dad’s dad is going through something very similiar right now…very early stages, it is very hard! Here’s the silver lining, you can still hug her and see her smile at things even if those times get fewer and fewer. Speaking from a girl with only 1 grandmother living, and no mother, that legacy still lives on for you even if her mind isn’t present all the time. Even though it is hard, the best thing you can do is treasure the few moments you do have with her!!! It really sucks to see someone deteriorate(sp?) over time…..but at least you have this time to spend quality time and tell them how much you love them! 🙂 prayin for you! love you guys!

  3. Thank you for sharing this, Sara. I know it could not have been easy to sit down and write it. My thoughts and love are with you and your family as you navigate this difficult time in your grandmother’s life. *Hugs.*

  4. Sara, I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this. I can’t imagine what that’s like. I do hope that through blogging, it gets easier for you. Sending you virtual hugs.

  5. Just remember sweet Sara…..this is our temporary home, and our bodies are only temples for the beautiful spirits that are who we really are. I know it’s hard to watch, but smile at the memories and be thankful that this is not the end for her or any of us 🙂 And call your girls. Love you.

  6. I love you sweetie. This message is beautiful and your Gamma still smiles at the picture of you on the beach from that calendar I did in will ALWAYS be there in her heart………now I need to get a tissue…..

  7. I’m sending you lot’s of love Sara. This kind of thing is so difficult for the healthy family members to deal with. The last year of my mother’s life she had two mini strokes and it started her into an early dementia decline. Some days she was totally normal and then others it was like she had no idea who I was. The hardest part was watching my mom realize what had happened AFTER her lucidity was back. The most we can do is just be strong and patient. I believe that deep inside our brains we never truly forget who we are, even when we go into these memory loss stages. I am confindent that Zech will be a wonderful anchor for you during these extremly tough first stages. If you ever need anything drop me a line. I’m super close to you. Even if its just to run out and get a carton of milk and a box of kleenex because you are just too overwhlemed to get out. Those days happen. I will be keeping your Grandma in my thoughts.

  8. I cannot imagine having to watch something like that and I feel for your whole family, especially Mac. I had a GREAT time visiting their house and treasure those few memories I do have of her….and the cinnamon rolls 🙂 just keep hugging. I wish I could hug my grandma ❤ love you boo

  9. Crying reading this post. I’m so sorry you and your family are going through this. Memories of those delicious cinnamon rolls will be with you forever, just try and remember that my sweet friend. My heart goes out to you!!! xoxoxo

  10. Pingback: Fatty Fatty Tuesday « Life in these times…

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