This is a story about my loving and funny Grandmother Mamie, and her eventual diagnosis with Alzheimer ’s disease.
During this past year, I have written about my father’s life with Alzheimer’s disease and my mother’s recent diagnosis with the same illness. As I sit back and think about my role in these two lives and how it’s shaped me and brought me to the place I’m at, I’m compelled to also tell the story of Grandma Mamie, my father’s mother who also had Alzheimer’s Disease. She died at the age of 92, 11 years ago. Details about her life as a pillar of generosity in our family, and her eventual loss of independence has had a significant impact on me. Her love, guidance and commitment to us was steadfast, and then sorely missed when she became unable to care for herself.
On a personal level, she meant the world to me. Eleven years after her death, I fondly remember her and her funny ways, can still hear her voice, and often think about the life lessons she taught, mostly by her actions.
She was a role model and a perfect gem.
Grandma Mamie was my father’s doting Italian mother. She was a model of solid goodness, and showered her 3 boys and their kids with love, affection, and humor. Babies and young children defined her existence, and we were the lucky, front-line recipients of her generosity and warmheartedness.
Several times over the years, she told me a story of a day when our family and her friend, Rose, were visiting at her house. I was three years old, and apparently already had a good understanding of the kind of person she was. Grandma Mamie stood in the living room and told Rose to watch. She then went and sat on the couch, and as she did that, I toddled over to her and climbed up on her lap. Grandma knew exactly what I was going to do and was so touched by this connection, that she had to demonstrate it for her friend. Grandma, of course, told this story from her perspective and what it meant to her, but as I heard the story, and have thought about it over the years, it was the 3-year-old girl who was touched by her deep love, and showed it by clinging to her and absorbing her kindness.
Grandma continued to impress me with her magic throughout my life.
When she began having trouble maintaining her life and independence because of dementia, it became apparent that it was my duty and honor to protect, guide, and unconditionally love her. Her lessons about life and people are what guided me. She made it easy to give back.