Grandma no longer remembers your name. She has no recollection of baking sweets every Christmas with you or that you always shared the first piece of cake from the oven. She may not remember the day, where she is, or who she is surrounded by, but be sure that her entire memory is not yet lost. Before you visit grams, prepare yourself for the battle you are about to walk into. Expect the worst, hope for the best, and bring tools to help everyone who's going to be there.
Did she love knitting? Bring some knitting needles and thread. Did she have a song she loved? Load it up on your smartphone and bring a speaker or headphones. My grandma was an accountant and she loves going through addition and subtraction questions with me (ex. "Whats 2 +3? 3+7? 10+5?). She lights up once she hears my voice, although her eyes stare blankly at my face. She has no idea who the bearded gentleman in front of her is, but the more I talk, the more I refresh stories of the past to her. Being with my babushka (grandmother in Russian) is never about correcting her forgetfulness, nor is it about going ten rounds of 20 questions with her. In my particular case, it's about reciting her favorite bible verses and children's rhymes. I can begin a rhyme and halfway through babushka is matching me word for word. It's familiar and warm for her - exactly what she needs. Her smile has nothing to do with what I say and so much more about what I do. The same can be said about her frustration. When she's clearly agitated at me, its never "What did I say" and more, "What influenced this emotion?" Did I wake her from a nap? Am I annoying her so she walks a bit farther instead of sitting? Am I trying to get her to take medication she doesn't like?
When asking yourself, "Does she remember me", change the focus from "me" to "she". Ask simply, "Does she remember?" Does she remember that vacation to Israel? No. Does she remember how Israel mad her feel? Perhaps. Bring up the broad to feel the deep. "Do you like Israel?" is a much easier question then, "Do you remember that vacation?" She doesn't have all of her memories anymore. The ones you shared together are now your responsibility to keep. "Does she remember me?" Staying patient and listening to all the details has shown me that babushka may not remember "Misha her grandson", but she remembers a grandson who loves her unconditionally. Her silent squeeze of my hand, her need to adamantly talk to me in circles, her peace to just sit quietly with me at times: These are all actions once takes with someone they trust and rely upon. Look for memory deeper than what she says - look at what she does. After all, her language is not in words, but in how she feels. Speak to her in love and she will answer in the same feeling.
Before seeing Nana...
It's key to understand she is in a new and beautiful chapter in her life. The tables have shifted. It's now time for you to give back to the woman who has given you so much. Visiting grams is now about making her feel as normal as possible. Dive deep into who she has been to see who she wants to still feel like in this new place she finds herself.
Comment below with any experiences, relatable stories, or advice. We'd love to hear it.