My Grandmother Elsie has always worried about me. She has always been concerned with my eternal soul, my weight, my hair, and my mother (her daughter). My Grandmother loved to ask me if I had a boyfriend. I would reply, “no”, my sadness almost outweighing her own. My Grandmother said she was going to pray for me; that I would meet and marry a nice boy. I was slightly embarrassed by this, knowing my Grandmother didn’t think I could do it without the help of a higher power, but I sort of appreciated it too.
Grandmother was worried I would turn into a godless, overweight spinster, with a spiral perm (“Is that how you’re doing your hair these days?”), so she prayed for me, every day.
Grandmother now lives in a care home for people with Dementia and Alzheimer’s. She has her own room that overlooks a small courtyard, and everyday she sits by the window, listening to classical music, while mildly sedated. The other residents of the home are all in a progressive course of Dementia and often enjoy stirring up trouble, but my Grandmother has always been at peace with her circumstance.
I bought my Grandmother a small stained glass cross and hung in her window. It hung there only a few days before it was stolen, likely by a confused resident. My Grandfather apologized profusely, embarrassed at the lack of security. I said that whomever stole it perhaps needed the cross more than she did.
When I visit my Grandmother now she doesn’t remember my name. She usually just smiles and seeks information, trying to piece things together. But she’s still concerned with my marital status, perhaps more than ever. When I showed up recently with my husband of three years my Grandmother smiled from ear to ear and asked excitedly, “Now, who is this?”
“Rhys. R. H. Y. S.”
“R. H. Y. S… Hmmm, how about that?”
She looked at my Grandfather and then back at me. “So, where are you staying?”
I should have said her house, but this might only add to her confusion. Grandpa lives nearby in a senior’s complex, but he still considers it their house: addressing his mail “Stan & Elsie”, even though she has been in the care home for the last seven years. He visits her every day, sometimes twice a day. He visits once in the afternoon, to hold her hand and chat about the good old days; and once in the evening, to bring her a treat and kiss her goodnight.
“We’re staying at Grandpa’s”.
She thought for a minute, and tapped her finger on her chin. “Okay, how shall I put this?” She looked at Grandpa for the answers, something she’s done for the last ten or twelve years. “One bed or two?”
We all burst out laughing, shocked that my Grandmother was gathering information by asking personal questions. I think she assumed we weren’t yet married. “Just one”. My Grandmother raised her eyebrows and shifted in her seat. “Grandma, Rhys and I have been married for three years.”
She gave Rhys a long look up and down and then beamed at the two of us. She had a sparkle in her eye, “Well, I like that.”