I watch her embrace my girls; she is her present self at that exact moment. “Biza!”(great-grandma) they shout. She hugs and kisses them. “I missed you my loves!” She then reaches out to me, her gaze affirms she still recognizes me. It’s been almost a year since I saw her last, but she still remembers. She appears to be in better shape and more at ease. She has turned 76 this week.
Ten months ago she was unwell and living on her own. Several falls, a broken arm and even days she got lost out on the street. She had caused a lot of chaos among the family with arguments and strange behavior. No longer fit to be on her own, my aunt and uncle took her in. “I must get the table ready, MR. C will want you to stay for dinner.” she says and heads out to the kitchen. I look over at my aunt. “We must go along with her and not contradict what she is saying, it only makes her frustrated otherwise ” my aunt replies. I walk over to the kitchen to help her as she sets the large dinning room table. I grab the cutlery and start to lay it out. “no, that’s my job, please sit down,” she panics. “The Mrs. likes the table set with the good silver.” she says. “what Mrs?” I ask “the lady of the house “she replies. My aunt sits down next to me. “She thinks she’s the maid of the house, and we are her masters.” she whispers “we cannot argue otherwise because it confuses her and makes her extremely upset. “she doesn’t call me by my name, nor recognize that I am her daughter. Most days I am The lady of the house, other days she refers to me as one of her sisters”. “She knows you it seems, and to her looks like you are over for dinner as a guest.” she continues. It takes me a good while to sum up the courage to even get words out. I’m numb, completely at a loss of words.
She had spent most of her teenage years working in the city for a wealthy family sending her money back home to her parents. She worked and lived with this family returning home on holidays. Once back at home, she joined her older sister and 4 younger brothers tending to housework and husbandry. That was over 40 years ago, a story of so much hardship as a child, hard labor as a teenager and immigrating to a new country well into her adulthood. She is stuck, slowly being robbed of her story and life.
They explained she had advanced dementia and was currently being evaluated for Alzheimer’s. My heart sank. Fighting back tears I watch her throughout the evening. She practically raised me as a child, while my mother was out busy working. How could this be happening? Why? She spends the evening embracing the girls and asking me about my move and new house. various times throughout the conversation referring to me as her daughter and being back home in her country. It was like someone had come along and spliced her life and ran it in short stories; in and out of the present. I watch, she smiles and enjoys her dinner. Surrounded by her family and happy; but I can’t help wondering for how long. Knowing this can only get worse, no cure. “we must enjoy this time together”, my uncle whispers. “It’s the best thing we can do for her.” “she needs her family, she needs love and she needs us to forgive.” I nod, all choked up. It was a wonderful Sunday dinner amongst family, but so full of emotion. I went to bed that night on a roller coaster; angry, sad and so afraid.
I am afraid of whats yet to come, only sure that I must make the most of time spent with her and let her enjoy what little memory is left.