Do you remember the day you were born?
My mom asks me this question almost every year on my birthday. My response has always been “yes!”, followed by some fictional memory of the day. My answers have become less wild with age. But, what if we are born with all the knowledge we will ever need and forget it slowly as we age?
My grandmother has Alzheimer’s. There have been times that she’s the woman I’ve always known and other times when I see her struggle to remember a name of a long-gone family member in a scrapbook. I told her once that she could make up a name if she wanted and I wouldn’t know the difference. This was followed by a wry glance in my direction.
She asks me the same questions about my life each time. Did she miss my wedding (I’m not married)? How about my son (it’s my cousin’s son she means)? She has on a few occasions thought I was her oldest daughter, though she remembers quickly with a blush when I tell her my name again and says, “Oh I know that.”
She and I have never been especially close. We lived in different towns and she still worked odd hours as a nurse when I was a kid. Our time spent together has been centered around holiday meals and intermittent visits.
The thing about not seeing someone with greater frequency is that the differences in awareness and behavior are more apparent at each encounter.
Someone who does see her regularly is my mother. She’s very middle child this way and was “the parent” long before I was born. My mom has taken on the task of caregiver and it’s both exhausting and amazing to watch. Caring for my grandmother has become a full time job for my mom even with help from aides and other resources – her whole, often hurting, heart is in this all the way and I am in awe.
I struggle with feeling like I’m not doing enough to help. I duck in an out for quick visits with my grandmother before work and make the occasional grocery trip or other errand for her or my mom, but is that enough? I’m learning as much as I can about Alzheimer’s, but is that enough? I sit and I listen to my mom and my step-dad (who is also caring for his mother) talk about their days. The mothers are always discussed: how they did today, what is the next course of action, can we have a date night to ourselves?
My goal at this point is to be a caregiver to the caregivers. So I will listen and I will give hugs and I will pick up dinner and run that errand and take that “thing” off the plate whenever possible. Taking care of each other is what we do, even when we don’t know how.
Let’s bring this story back to art, because this is a blog about my art after all:
On Saturday, October 10th, I’ll be participating in the Monument Circle Art Fair. It’s also the day of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Indianapolis. The Walk will pass by my booth and if you’re so inclined, swing by for a high-five or a hug, because you are amazing.
I’ll be donating 15% of my sales for the day, both at the Fair and online at my Etsy Store, to the Alzheimer’s Association. For those participating in the Walk, show me your shirt or registration info and receive 10% off in my booth. It’s not much, I know, but I want more money to go to the Association while still showing my appreciation.
I’ll see you on October 10th. The Monument Circle Art Fair is 10-5pm.