The death of John Hughes brought with it a flood of memories for millions. Who among us didn’t try to do the lipstick trick? (Turns out it doesn’t work so well when your cleavage consists of a training bra stuffed with toilet paper.) And it’s hard to find someone my age (or five to 10 years older or younger) who doesn’t have an important adolescent memory closely tied to one of his movies.
While some of those memories are sure to be happy, some are certain to recall pain. But at least we have them. Not everyone does.
When I was in sixth grade, I remember getting so annoyed with my Grandma Sara for asking me whether I had homework multiple times on the way home from school. “God,” I thought, “why doesn’t she just listen and pay attention?”
A few years later, after she’d been officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but was still well enough to live on her own, I remember being frustrated that she’d forgotten to make the pie for Thanksgiving. She made the best pies, and when I’d asked her whether they were done (as a helpful reminder — I wasn’t a completely terrible child), she assured me they were. People with Alzheimer’s sometimes tell you what you want to hear, not even realizing that they’re lying.
The following month, I tried to get out of going to her apartment because OH MY GOD, if I had to hear that poinsettia story ONE MORE TIME I would definitely die (in the way that teenagers often die). Yes, Grandma, I know they used to be all tall and spindly and kind of ugly, and you’re right! Now they’re so lush and full and beautiful! It is amazing.
I would give anything — ANYTHING — to hear that story from her one more time. Or any story, for that matter.
Grandma Sara has been in a nursing home for the past eight years and has dealt with Alzheimer’s for close to 18. She can no longer put together a sentence or tell us what she’s thinking. At 90 years old, her physical condition remains mostly good, but mentally … she’s mostly gone. On rare occasions, she’ll light up for a second when she sees one of us. Whether she recognizes us or is just happy to see a smiling face, it’s impossible to tell. She hasn’t responded in a way that makes sense to anything I’ve said in years. Mostly, she just tries to be polite to these people who come and sit with her. Sometimes she laughs, sometimes she’s weepy. We never know why — we’re just thrilled when we visit on a good day.
This is a woman who used to put on lipstick to get the mail. She had her family convinced she liked the wings of the chicken best because she knew everybody else liked the other parts better. One time I asked her if she’d ever sworn in her whole life, and she responded, “Don’t tell anyone, but I might’ve said, ‘Oh, hell,’ once or twice.”
She made the best cookies and pies, as well as the most beautiful formal gowns for my mom’s high school dances, and she took care of me after school for years (always making sure I had a snack). I taught her to shoot baskets, but never took the time to let her teach me how to sew.
On October 24, I’ll be walking in the Gainesville Alzheimer’s Memory Walk in her honor. I’m looking for people to walk with me — if you want to raise money, great. If you just want to show support, that’s great too. I’m also taking donations — you’ll see a small button over to the right if you want to donate online, or you can contact me if you’d rather do it in another way. Or, if you just want to share a story about how Alzheimer’s has touched your life, I’d love to hear that, too.
**Ed: I forgot to mention that anyone who lives in the area and wants to donate or become a part of Team Go for Grandma is TOTALLY invited to a par-tay at the Seymour residence following the walk. There will be food and booze — what more do you want?