Early this morning, my 92-year-old grandmother died. I thought it appropriate to write a few words about the person she was before dementia took her away from us.
Grandma was born in 1917 to a railroad worker and the busiest homemaker that ever lived on this planet!! She had one brother, ten years younger (who also suffers from some kind of dementia). She was a highly intelligent woman and an accomplished (amateur) musician, playing piano, organ and saxophone. In 1937 she married my grandfather, and they were married until his death 5 years ago.
They lived on a farm in northern Indiana. That place is where my siblings and I spent some of the most fun times we had as a child. Grandpa would give us tractor rides, we would hunt through the barns for Grandma's barn cats and their kittens, or explore the house---my grandparents kept everything. They had my mother's and her siblings' old toys, their prom dresses from the 1960s, and some clothes of Grandma's probably from the 1930s.
Grandma wasn't the stereotypical grandmother---her house was always a mess (much like my own), she didn't smother you with hugs (but it was clear from her actions that she loved us), and she was never in the kitchen cooking yummy treats (she hated to cook and was terrible at it, but she would always keep packages of cookies or bags of candy around to treat us with). However, she was a very kind person and we loved visiting her and Grandpa.
They were total opposites. Grandma was a quiet person who loved music and books; Grandpa was as ornery as the day is long (in a good way). Still, they made their marriage work for over 60 years. Marriage vows were taken seriously by that generation.
We did not realize the extent of her decline until my grandfather fell ill and could no longer care for them both. After his death, my mother and her siblings appropriately decided it would be in Grandma's best interest to move away from the farm up in Indiana (none of our family lives close to there anymore) and closer to us, into a retirement home for seniors. It soon became obvious that something more was wrong than mere forgetfulness caused by old age.
Within a couple of years, it became necessary that she move to the assisted living part of the retirement home. She declined to the point where she often did not recognize the children she had raised, or her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She stopped writing in her diaries, a lifelong habit she had learned from her own mother. When she suffered a serious fall, it was time to move to a nursing home. Her decline was very rapid after that.
Grandma died peacefully in her sleep, February 1rst. She will be missed by all who knew her, and most definitely my children will be missing their Great-Grandma.