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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

oblivion.

Goodness, how many times is she going to ask me the exact same question? 

I'm standing in the kitchen of my grandparents house, making dinner for them. I was working at a therapeutic horse program for the summer and decided to live with my grandparents to help out and be closer to the barn. The first week flew by, strenuous hours in the sun all day. I wasn't used to long hours in the heat so my body and brain felt fried by the time I got home to make a meal for my grandparents. I was too tired to notice anything different about them. Until that one night. 

She just kept asking the same questions. I'd reply in lengthy, long winded answers because that's how I talk. We'd shift into another subject, and then she would ask the same question again. I brushed it off initially and would just assume that she hadn't heard everything the first time. 
She'd ask again. Odd, I'd think. 
I answered, this time slightly shorter than my first answer. Dinner was ready and my grandmother would come to the table, followed by my grandfather who had been sitting in his corner chair the whole time going through mail. We said the blessing and then began eating. 
"So tell me what did you today?"
Really? A third time? 
"Don't you remember Mom-Mom? I told you when I got home that I was working at the barn." 
"Oh?... No, I don't believe you did." 
I would sigh, slightly perturbed and then I'd repeat the days events. 
This continued for the following weeks. Every once in awhile there would be bouts of anger, frustration and confusion mingled with her innocent, repeated questions. But her somehow blissful befuddlement was too sincere to ever get too frustrated with her. She had genuinely just forgotten that I had answered her question. 

This was eight years ago. I didn't realize what was happening at the time. I didn't put symptoms together. It wasn't until much later that my family saw the precursors for what they really were. The exasperation, bewilderment, displacement and fear.
This was dementia. 
This was a woman we knew who was slowly... painfully.... becoming a stranger. 

I don't say this flippantly or insensitively, but sometimes I think seeing someone with dementia is harder than having someone pass away. Because you see, when someone dies.. they're gone. They aren't coming back. The painful realization of never hearing their voice again, never seeing their face again.. it hits you like a sucker punch..and it keeps hitting you until the truth settles. You don't see them. They're gone. And eventually you move on. This doesn't mean the pain isn't still there.. it just means that its physical presence isn't staring you in the face.

Dementia isn't like that. 
You don't get to not see your loved one. 
You see them...every day...but it's not them. 
They disappear and then come back. Sometimes it feels like a cruel game of peek-a-boo that life plays with you. The person you know, their face, their voice, their physical form and being is tangible, is there before your eyes, interacting with you. One second you're there embracing this beautiful person... the next, they're gone, completely forgetting who they are, and you begin to question if you ever knew the person who sat in front of you. It's a continual state of touch and go. It rips you apart and puts you back together when the person you know returns. 

I don't know how my mother does this. Day in, day out, she sees her mother like this. Her own, beloved mother. Each day, each week, each month... time runs on. Time runs on my grandmother panicking because she's lost her phone, because she's lost her jewelry, her chocolates, her home, her husband whom she forgets has passed away, her mother, her father...herself. She forgets herself. 

My grandmother is in a wavering state of oblivion. Everything is fading for her... and she is fading from us. 

Deep breath. 

Oh this hurts. God, why does it hurt so abdominally? Why is it hard to breathe?  

It's moments like these, when pain and suffering flow mingled together, that life is most tangible. You can taste the pain through salty tears. 
You can feel the sorrow through quivered breath. 
You can hear the inward groans of despair. 
You can touch life and feel the sting of its mortality. 

It's moments like these when you feel it... 
Grace. 
It's moments like this when you see it...
Love. 
It's moments like this when you know it...
Him. 

Coursing through your veins, pulsing through your heart, your tears, your pain, your suffering, your realization that life is so fragile. 

This isn't a moral of the story post where I've learned a lesson. This is an honest confession of life, happening now. This is the reality that an ever present God is meeting me, meeting my mom, meeting my grandmother where we are. He meets us in the mire. In the oblivion state of mind that we all encounter. He meets us and He comforts us here. 

He is here, in the oblivion. 
And that's all that matters. 



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