Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

When I was little, I loved change, but on a very small scale. I liked to do little irreversible things, and be the first one to do them. I jumped at the chance to crack through the ice bubbles over puddles, I loved opening sealed packages, the first day of school with a new teacher, writing on a clean piece of plain white paper. I even poked holes in the corners of a room full of fresh wallpaper where it was stretched over the corners, much to my mom's dismay.

These days, though, I don't like anything that has any sort of finality to it. If I can't take it back, I don't want to make the decision. If it's marching in one direction, I want to stop it. In a lot of ways, it makes having an infant son torture, since he changes practically by the hour. Even with my knitting, there are times when I hate the idea of starting a project. I don't want to wind the yarn skein because I'll never be able to get it back to the way it was.

In undergrad, I wanted to spend as much time at home as possible because it was the same; constant and unchanging. Now, I want to be there because it is changing, and I think that somehow my being there will slow it down.

I've been mulling this post over for a few days, and it took a more defined form in my mind yesterday as I was heading to the bookstore for a coffee and some knitting time. (It was my day off, but since the boyo is now in daycare, I stay on campus so I can go and feed him on demand). It's nice to have some dedicated knitting in my day, but it's also more time to think.

All this reflection is due to the situation with my Grammie, who some of you may remember way back when took a fall, broke her shoulder, and had a rough time rehabbing from the surgery.

She's never been the same since, but when we look back on it, she hadn't been herself for quite some time. She turned 89 in August, and is still living at home (with home-care visiting twice a day), but things have slowly been declining.

Her memory seems to get worse and worse as the weeks pass. When she was first out of the hospital, she asked when my Grandpa was going to be home from work (he passed away in 1988), but caught herself and felt really bad. That alone broke my dad's heart, I'm sure, but there were more incidents. After spending most of last winter housebound (with the exception of doctor's appointments), she went to Mom and Dad's for lunch one Sunday in the spring, and talked on and on about the nice new house they were in, and asking who owned it... Mom and Dad have been in that house since 1978.

Things like this have been adding up, but she does pretty well if everyone sticks to her routine. She hasn't cooked her meals for a while, because she forgets any and all recipes, but over the holidays my Dad goes over to help her make traditional meat pies for Christmas. Last year it went really well, she was able to do it with some reminding about the ingredients, and they turned out fine.

This year, though, one of her nieces brought over some of the ingredients (which she often does), and left them in the fridge for my Dad to get later that day when he went to help cook. He showed up and found pork fat burnt to the bottom of a cast iron pot, and the house smelling of smoke. It's only by the grace of God that it didn't catch fire. She'd put it on to render the fat, but turned it up to high and left and fell asleep in the living room. Luckily she woke up in time to turn it off, but it was the biggest wake-up call we've had, in a year and a half of hints.

(Sometimes God whispers when he wants you to pay attention. If you don't listen, then he YELLS.)

Dad had to take the fuses out of the stove to render it inoperable. That broke her heart as well as his, since she does have plenty of times where she realizes what's happening to her.

Mom told me about this a couple of days ago, then remembered that a few weeks ago there was another major memory event that also falls into that sort of category. And, it was the thing that we've all been dreading.

When my little brother moved home, he started visiting her every day. He's the baby, and she took care of him when Mom went back to work in the early 80's, so in a lot of ways, he's her pet. On about his third or fourth visit, though, she didn't recognize him. She kept on saying he was her long-dead uncle. We were able to rationalize it because Little Bro does look like this uncle - short, stocky, fair blond - and it's not the typical apperance of the men in our family. That doesn't take away that hurt, though.

She doesn't remember names of people who came into her life recently; she rarely remembers my sister-in-law's name, but she knows that my brother is married. She also can't remember the baby's name, but she knows I have a baby boy. She does remember Hubby's name, but he was in the picture for a few years before she took her fall, and I think he spent more time around the family than S-I-L did (just by chance).

The thing is, it seems like lots has changed, but nothing has changed. We've always taken care of her since my Grandpa died, and we're her only immediate family. Sometimes when I talk to her, she's the same Grammie who taught me how to poach an egg, and sat patiently with me while I tried to master french knots on my first embroidery projects. I need her to still be in there somewhere.

God, this is hard.

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