I pulled into a vacant spot in the parking lot that was shaded over by a large tree. Before I left my car to enter the mall, I checked my phone. I’d almost forgotten that I’d texted my mom to see how my grandmother’s neurologist appointment had gone.
“It’s Alzheimer’s.” My mom had texted back.
My car felt impenetrable by the sun’s warm rays. I sat frozen, staring at my phone’s screen, trying to figure out the most appropriate way to react. I considered blowing off my shopping plans and just bawling my eyes out in my car. I wanted to. I was devastated. But I talked myself out of it. It seemed too dramatic. After all, we’d known this was coming.
We had known since the first time we’d visited my grandparents in their condo and discovered that they were virtually living off of frozen pizzas. My grandmother hadn’t cooked a meal in ages.
We’d known when my grandfather called and reported nervously that my grandmother was acting strange. She was asking where her father was, certain he had just been in the living room with them. She couldn’t seem to understand that her father had died on another continent decades ago.
We’d known at Christmas because my grandmother had gotten confused. She’d asked my older cousin Francy where her mother was. Francy’s parents had been divorced since she was a young child.
We’d known on account of the family history. Her sister was already going down this dark journey.
In a way, I suspect I always knew my grandmother would end up with Azheimer’s, somehow. I’d known it from the very first day she explained this wretched disease to me herself. I was 4. Since that day, I had always anticipated and dreaded this very day. This moment.
In my car, still staring at the black screen of my cellphone, I convinced myself that a lifetime of expectation rendered crying unwarranted. I wanted to talk about it, but I felt like I had no one to talk to. I didn’t want to upset my mom further. A lot of my friends had already lost grandparents. They’d died. This didn’t seem quite on par with death, of course. It just felt like my entire world was crumbling.
But life surely went on. My life. My grandmother’s life. The life of my entire family has continued in spite of the diagnosis. Since then, I have succumbed to the tears. I’ve reveled in anger. These are natural and acceptable behaviours, I’ve learned. But since then, I have also laughed with my grandmother. I’ve made new memories. I’ve traveled with her. The diagnosis certainly was not on par with death.
My grandmother is still living, and she is still herself at her very core. She has lost most of her verbal communication skills at this point, but she’s still her. She still lights up when she realizes I’ve entered the room. She still scowls in disapproval if I’ve painted my nails in a colour she doesn’t like.
She’s still the woman who raised me. The woman a owe a great deal of my character to. I am the strong woman I am because of the strong woman she is.