Month: May 2015

If I Have Time, Don’t You?

Memories of my grandmother..

Each year, unfailingly, we received a heftily substantial box of homemade cookies and treats around Christmastime.  My sisters and I scavenged ravenously for our favorites, most often your frosted sugar cookies that made a swift departure to our bellies.  Love in cookies.  Love absorbed by our bodies and satiating in your absence.

After Grandpa died you started spending winters with us.  Every morning at the crack of dawn at which you naturally (inhumanly) arose, you set the thermostat heat on high so we were all warm by the time we (humanly) awoke.  

You love the sun. I wonder if you remember us lying in the reclining chairs by the pool or in your backyard at your new condo here in California.  You would bake to a dark tan while I would burn to a bright red.  But that was not important.  Of importance was the time spent with you.  Time.  A commodity rarer than I could ever anticipate.

Christmastime again.  You formed the sugar cookie dough deftly and with secrecy.  None of us to this day know the exact intricacies and ratios of the flour and leavening you combined to create cookie magic.  A cookie magician.  Trees, angels, bells, reindeer.  All frosted in reds and greens and blues and whites.  What simplicity and innocence spiked with a little shortness, but we overlooked the thorns.  

We got you a dog to keep you company.  Elsea had a serious issue with barking that drove you to insanity, but you took one step further the day she ate your dentures.  We have forever joked about this famed event, even commemorating it with a Hallmark card portraying a dog with human teeth.

You started to hear music – Elvis, the Star-spangled Banner – things we could not hear.  At first we chalked it up to eccentricity and a little senility.  We took you to the doctor multiple times.  Mental status exams repeated, one after another.  You could never draw the clock, but you remembered “Obamack” as the President with little difficulty and marked distaste.  

Your driving worsened.  We became physically afraid to be in a car under your direction.  You left the stove on and forget details and events.  You stopped your activities of daily living – bathing, styling your once impeccable permed curls.  We had no choice.

I created the shadowbox hanging next to your room door at Sunrise Assisted Living as artistically and artfully as I could muster. I believed you deserved the best shadowbox on the floor, in the building for that matter.  The deep crimson duvet we bought for your bed paired well with the luscious green carpet running wall to wall.

I moved to Oregon a little while after your move into Sunrise.  My memories stop here.  I have heard stories of your decline from Daddy – hoarding, inattention to care of yourself, a move to another assisted living facility, misconceptions about our lives.  Stories.  I neglected to delve deeper.  

Last Wednesday, the teacher overseeing our memoir independent learning class graced our presence at our weekly meeting with several activities designed to stimulate our creative thought and writing capacities.  The activity I chose involved reading “All My Relations” by Linda Hogan.  I was enamored by her telling of how before and after collective prayer, the constituents gathered to pray would intone “all my relations.”  The repetitiousness of this utterance inspired me to write a short piece about my experience on Baha’i Pilgrimage in Haifa, Israel, using Allah’u’Abha as my refrain.  Our teacher also supplied stationary and cards upon which to write messages to people whom we loved or wished to thank, also conceptually spawned from the Hogan piece.  I had some time left in the hour and decided to write a card to my grandmother.  I have minuscule handwriting and attempted to write as largely as I could so that she could be sure to read it.  I knew enough to keep it simple with a loving update of how we all are in Oregon.  My teacher supplied a stamp, and I texted my father for her address in Los Angeles, letting him know I was sending her a card.  I received a heavier return text than anticipated.  As anticipated, her address was listed, although it was accompanied by a I do not think she will be able to read it, sweetie.

Tears began to flow copiously, and I tried to staunch the flow before my classmates noticed, albeit unsuccessfully.  I lost it.  I was bombarded by feelings of selfishness.  If I have time, does she not?  Can’t time stand still?  Aren’t we still baking in the sun like the cookies in our oven?  I have not seen her in five years, nor have I spoken to her more than a few times.  Life has encapsulated me, and I was ignorant not to ensure her concurrent encapsulation.  Time on this plane is linear.  How can I expect life to continue for me, but to freeze as a crystal in a cube for her?  Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease.  I fear I have missed my window to connect, to say goodbye before the disease speaks the words for me from my lips.  In the card, I promised to write and to visit this fall.  There is a possibility that I may find an empty, unmade bed, hoarded newspapers, and disarray in place of the tanning, baking curmudgeon I have known my entire life.  I pray to God our worlds collide at least once more.  Please do not leave this earthly plane before I have planted a kiss on your cheek, listened to your stories, and present you with my closest interpretation of your Christmas frosted sugar cookies.  Grant me this.  I promise to commit you to memory in memorial of the memories, the skills you loose each month, each week, each day.  If you remember one thing and only one thing, let it be this: You are loved.

An Open Letter…

This is an open letter to my beloved sisters.  Love you both dearly..

Dear Hannah and Samantha,

Life is cruel and unfair, is it not?  You know this far better than many people I know.  And I know it is because of me that you know.  You went from playing with Animal and swimming in pools to spending nights alone while our parents visited me in hospitals and cared for me with the passion and intensity necessary, yet damaging to your little lives.  Bones grew and lengthened in a world foreign and ill equipped to offer the necessary calcium and minerals for healthy growth.  My illness has not only taken so much from me, but it has taken part of your world, your childhood, from you.  Unfortunately it continues to do so, and my heart breaks with every breath I stifle and every moment I sequester from the feeble existence I have created for you.  No words I write or utter can return a childhood, a happiness to you, but I shall try.  If at most you read them, my heart will be sufficed.

Hannah, thank you for the eight months you put your life on hold for my care.  For twice a week you made the approximately 55-60 mile trek to Kaiser Sunnyside to take me for electroconvulsive therapy treatments.  We left often before six o’clock A.M. in darkness and fog, and while I often slept for the duration of the car ride, you were forced to remain alert and diligent.  You would then wait in the car in the parking lot for over five or six hours as I received treatment, and then you would drive over an hour to take me home.  This was your life.  My life was your life, and it still is.  You drive me to all doctors’ appointments and pick me from the train station at every beck and call.  You are even relegated to take me to get haircuts.  Our lives have become so enmeshed, and in this enmeshment you have lost your identity while retaining mine.  I must work to cut the tethers, allow you to live once again.  I promise you that I will try to do this, as it is pinnacle for your survival.  I pray, please find your way.  Go to school, work, anything of the sort, but be happy.  I want nothing more than to see you happy.

Samantha, you would not remember this, but when you were still very young – maybe seven years old – you hugged me when I was in a moment of anxiety and rage.  We now do not talk very often, and my illness distances us.  You suffer, too, ravaged by depression and anxiety.  I wish there were something that could bring us together, to hug one another in times of down and times of anxiety.  I am so proud of you for moving on with your life – attending college, living on your own, going on dates – and if the best that our relationship can sustain to be is distance at this point, I, as I do for Hannah, want you to be happy.  Hopefully someday we can mend our wounds, close the distance and reconcile, but your happiness is what I treasure in my heart.  I send my love and apologies for the hell you had to live through, and I know not yet whether these wishes have permeated the barrier of your heart, but I will continue to try.  I will not give up.  For neither you or Hannah.

You have always lived in my shadow – my good grades, excellence in music and other extracurriculars.  Teachers would often refer to you as “Alex’s sister.”  How painful it must be to have an identity defined by someone else’s shadow, not to be one’s own person.  While I did not choose this position, I certainly filled it.  Please know that you are so special and unique, probably far more so than I.  I beg of you, laugh, smile, and move on in your lives.  Claim what is due to you, what you deserve.  I will sit here quietly and wait for our connections to tie once again, but most of all, I would like to say I love you.