Gram had been living at Harbor End for six months now. The beginning had been hard: she was lonely and felt put away and uncared for. And she had been indignant that she needed to be in an assisted living home. But gradually, day after day, two things happened. One: she realized, as her memory got worse and things became more confusing, that this was where she needed to be. And two: she began to feel at home in this place. The chirping birds woke her up in the morning and she could turn her head and look out the window at the expansive blue bay. Her days were sometimes full of activities and sometimes still a bit lonely, but she’d made a couple of friends and they’d sit and play cards by the window or on the wraparound porch. And at night she would fall asleep to the sound of the fountain bubbling outside her window. She had found a measure of peace amidst the chaos.
Janice kissed Lincoln goodbye and watched her bound off to school. Then she made a left hand turn and headed to the assisted living home for Alzheimer’s where her mother was living. Her and Lincoln visited every other day, never wanting Gram to feel lonely or uncared for. The beginning was heartbreaking. Gram didn’t want to be there and Janice felt like she was the worst person in the world for not being able to care for Gram on her own. But slowly Gram started to seem more comfortable and happy, although those spells were getting to be less and less in between the confusion and cloudiness.
She pulled into the parking lot and cut the engine. She waved hello to Betsy at the front desk and headed up to the second floor. Gram’s nurse, Jenna, was walking down the hallway.
“Hi Jenna! How is she today?”
“I think she’s having a good day today. She asked me about my kids and remembered my favorite tea.” Jenna beamed and Janice sent up a prayer for women like her who worked tirelessly day in and out in difficult conditions.
“Great! Thanks so much! I’m going to go say hi!”
Janice opened the door and saw her mother sitting in her favorite chair that looked out onto the bay. “Hi mom!”
Gram turned and her face lit up. “Well hi there honey! What are you doing here?”
“It’s Thursday. I always come see you on Thursdays.” Janice smiled and took a seat next to Gram on the bed. “How was yesterday?”
“Oh you know, Shelby and I played a couple of games of Gin Rummy and ate those “healthy” meals that they keep forcing us to eat. Do you think you could bring them a few pounds of butter and maybe some bacon?” Gram winked and Janice laughed. Gram had never been one to think a vegetable was a necessary part of a meal.
They chatted for an hour and went on a walk around the assisted living home. It was a good day indeed. Some days Gram was angry, some days she was confused, and some days she was sad. But today she seemed clear and happy and like herself. Janice tucked this memory away, knowing it was going to one that was less and less common.
Three weeks later, Lincoln stood in front of her entire school for their yearly talent show. She had been working hard on her poem, knowing it probably wouldn’t compare to the Taylor Swift sing-a-longs and the comedy routines, but this was what she wanted to do. Her hands were moist with sweat and nerves and she searched the audience finding her mom, knowing it was to her and Gram that she had really written this poem for. She cleared her voice and began:
“Your home was the smell of bacon popping and bread toasting
Home was late night laughs with board games and the smell of Pinesol
Home was hot chocolates and big hugs and always feeling safe
You started to forget how to pop the bacon and where to put the bread
You couldn’t remember how to play Candyland and sometimes your house wasn’t clean
Hot chocolate wasn’t safe for you to make
But you never stopped hugging me and you never stopped loving me
Alzheimer’s came for your mind and you fought it with all you had
But even when you were confused, even when you couldn’t remember things
You were always Gram, you were always love
And we will always be here for you
We will always love you.”
She stepped off stage to loud applause and happy tears streaming down her mom’s face.