Thursday, November 26, 2015

I’ve always been close with my grandparents. Growing up, we spent a lot of time with all of them as a family, going to dinners and birthday celebrations and holiday festivities. I have fond memories of the bonds I have shared with each of them.

I’m named after both of my grandmothers. My mom’s mom is Mary Ann, and my dad’s mom is Ina, which inspired my name of Mary Kristina. There’s something special about being named after someone you love and admire. As a kid, I didn’t understand how important those names would be to me as I grew older.

My grandma Mary Ann was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago. Before a doctor made official what we already knew, I watched my sweet grandmother become frustrated with herself for forgetting little things. For a few years, my birthday cards came a day or two late, something she was always on top of.

What I’d do to get a birthday card from her now. We’re lucky in that she has stayed at home. She has a husband whom she married when my son was just a baby, and he has been saint-like in sticking by her side throughout her struggles. The family has hired caregivers to assist in Grandma’s daily needs and they have been instrumental in keeping her comfortable in her own home.

Grandma Mary Ann and I used to do all kinds of things together. During the holidays, she’d take me to see The Nutcracker ballet. We were frequent visitors of the Nelson-Atkins and expert ice cream connoisseurs. We went to high tea dressed in our fanciest clothes, and we picked blueberries until we were purple from head to toe. My grandma was full of life and always dressed to the nines. She was kind, loving and would do anything for me.

I miss her so much. Anymore, when I pay her a visit, I might get a brief smile or a nod from her, but she’s not there. The person she was is gone. It is heartbreaking to watch someone you love so much, someone you have so many memories with, struggle to even remember your name – a name that you share.

I have no choice but to hold onto those memories and share what I can with my son about this extraordinary woman. I’m beyond grateful that she has been a part of my life for as long as she has. Grandma Mary Ann was always the first to mention what she was thankful for each Thanksgiving and though over the years I remember rolling my eyes as she listed off the obvious, this year I’ll be silently thanking her for always loving me even if she can’t remember my name. 

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