What's in a Name?
I've hurt people in my life; some so deep, the relationships are beyond repair. They choose to forget me - trying to force my existence from their hearts and minds. I see them, infrequently, and I'm looked upon as a stranger in passing. The spark in their eye, no more lights for me. They've reset the memories; at least so it seems. I work hard, every day, to hold my head high to reframe and move forward. I do hope that some time before I die, there is a reconciliation.
For months, I had been pushing off seeing my grandmother. She's this spicy ragú, barely wrinkled in her 90's, still running the show at the memory care facility in which she resides. For whatever reason, I decided that yesterday would be the day. I logged a decent endurance tempo workout, showered, and got coffee (yes, please) before driving the 2-ish miles to her place. With a deep breath I walked through all the key padded doors and signed my name on the last line of the visitor log.
Familiar with her routine, I walked down the hallway to the entertainment room, hoping lunch hadn't yet started. My gaze found her before she noticed me. My little grandmother, perched front and center, eyes fixed on the Hallmark movie of the morning. Without introducing myself, I struck up a conversation. Immediately, I was reminded (sigh) of her fading memory. She didn't know who I was. Unlike those who force the light to die, I could see the spark in her eyes, but she couldn't make the connection. Have you ever wanted to say something, or find a word, that was on the tip of your tongue? That's how I see her eyes; she almost remembers - the familiarity is on the edge of her brain.
I swallow hard before reminding her of my name, my relationship to her. And just like that, the connection is made, only to be lost seconds later. We play this memory frogger game for 20 minutes: "You work here? Do you live close? Do you have children? What are their names?" She fires off memories of years past, only as if she's living them now. She spoke of her two daughters, only she never had two girls - she's remembering mine. I try to help relive good times, maybe in hopes of jumpstarting new memories, or just pulling back those that seems to have been distinguished.
I say my good-byes, wishing her well. She thanks me for my visit as we embrace. As I'm walking away, I overhear her tell the aid that I'm an old neighbor. The aid gently reminds her that I'm her granddaughter. She disagrees. All I wanted was for her to say my name. For now, I hold on to the thought that regardless of my name, she just remembers our lives in my smile.