Thursday, June 11, 2009

Losing Grandma...

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder named for German physician Alois Alzheimer who first described it in 1906. Scientists have learned a great deal about Alzheimer’s disease in the century since Dr. Alzheimer first drew attention to it. Today we know that Alzheimer’s:

  1. Is a progressive and fatal brain disease. As many as 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer's destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life. Alzheimer’s gets worse over time, and it is fatal. Today it is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.
  2. Is the most common form of dementia, a general term for the loss of memory and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 70 percent of dementia cases. Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, mixed dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia.
  3. Has no current cure. But treatments for symptoms, combined with the right services and support, can make life better for the millions of Americans living with Alzheimer’s. There is an accelerating worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset, or prevent it from developing.


My Grandma Groomer was a beautiful, elegant, talented woman. She cooked like a gourmet chef, her house was always spotless, she sewed all her own clothes including suits & they were perfect, her garden was beautiful-she had such a green thumb, always had a grape arbor & how I loved her fresh grape juice & jelly. Growing up she was my ideal. She was the standard to which I held myself for many years. She had the most beautiful singing voice, could play the harmonica, taught us to Charleston, she was a talented sketch artist. Meals at her house were perfectly appointed, always served at just the right temperature. Her desserts were to die for. I was always in awe of Grandma.

Now, I don't mean to say she was perfect 'cause she wasn't. She was judgemental, prejudiced, angry, & very unhappy. I saw all this as I became older. She had a very priviledged start in life. Her grandparents were very well off, aristocrats. Her mother married the hired hand. So life was tough for my Grandma & her siblings. Then her mother died in childbirth. Her grandparents cut themselves off from their daughter's family. Proverty struck my Grandma's family. My Great-Granddaddy farmed all the kids out to relatives. Then the older ones rebeled, went to work, & everyone came home. Grandma had to quit school & stayed home to take care of the baby. She did all the housework, cooking, etc. When she was 16, 17 (I don't really know) she climbed out her bedroom window & eloped with my Grandpa. They were a handsome couple.

They had four children (3 girls, 1 boy-my mother is the 2nd born). My Grandpa could fix anything, very mechanically talented. He built a TV back in the 40's from scratch. I am amazed by that. He was also a bootlegger during Prohibition. Then, after many jobs, he became a cop on the Norman force. I can still see him in his uniform. He & his partner were rear-ended at a traffic light & his back was broken. While he was not paralyzed that ended his career in law enforcement. He had a pension from the City of Norman & the US Navy for his service in World War II. He had four kids at home & volunteered for the Navy. My Grandma was PO'd to say the least. Then when it came time to allocate his monthly allotment while he was overseas, she found out he had never gotten a divorce from the wife before her (is my family messed up or what??!!!). Since they had kids, the allotment came to her. I think my Grandma was Grandpa's third wife & they married young.

After my Grandpa died in the mid-80's, Grandma was lost. They fought horribly & were always angry with each other, but when he died Grandma had no purpose. She had been taking care of people since she was a little girl. She got mugged & chased the muggers down the street of the retirement community. I come from very self-sufficient, strong Southern women. We, overall, take no crap, especially from muggers.

My Grandma was tough. She survived uterine cancer when I was in Jr. High, breast cancer when I was in my mid-20's. She gave me a wonderful gift in that she showed me her scar & after that I was never afraid to face breast cancer because the mastectomy wasn't scary. She had no treatment & was cancer free for many, many years.

My Mom & Aunt started noticing that Grandma was not herself. She baked potatoes once & there were big clumps of dirt on them. That just was not Grandma acceptable. You could, literally, eat off her floor. This woman boiled everything. She could catch a baby's pacifier before it hit the ground, drop it in a pot of boiling water, & give it back to you before you could bat an eye. I saw her do this when one of my cousins was a baby. Awesome!! Then she started leaving the stove on. So, they moved her to a retirement home. She would wander away & head for the hospital where my Grandpa had been treated. Once she was found wandering in a neighborhood in Edmond. The woman was an escape artist. She climbed the wall once. I saw her at that Home for the first time in years. She was very happy to see me. But she would fade in & out. She knew me, called me by name, but she would sometimes tell me "You are so big" & ask my Mom "Where are your little children?" It was sad, but manageble because she knew me & called me by name.

Then we had to move her to a home for alzeheimer patients. She became almost completely non-verbal, but she still knew me. She would always smile when I walked in & called "Grandma". She would pat me & say "Pretty". She would communicate her likes & dislikes. She still tried to escape even though she was in "lock down". I got pinched by older men alot at that place.

After a couple of years we moved her to the Oklahoma Christian Home in Edmond nearer my Aunt who visited everyday. After I moved back to OK my Mom & I would go every weekend to spend most of the day with Grandma, feed her, change her, & all the other things she needed. She had breast cancer again. It had come back in her other breast before she was diagnosed with alzheimers. She had opted for no treatment at all & we honored that wish. She was in pain alot, but had a morphine patch. I kept up with that because once it was missing & a few times it did not get changed on schedule. I am a hard taskmaster when it comes to my loved ones' care.

Through all of this, the moves, etc. Grandma knew me everytime I visited. We had some good times. I got her headphones so she could listen to hymns, I got her red sunglasses so she could sit in the garden. Then that awful day came when I walked in , called "Grandma" when I saw her & she turned to me with a blank stare. No recognition at all. I was broken-hearted. But, funny thing was that even though she had no idea who I was, she liked me. She would always smile at me. She would sometimes still pat my hand or touch a particular garment I was wearing. She always seemed to like it when I wore overalls. She did not like me to wear them when she was my Grandma, but when she became the other Grandma she loved them. Go figure.

Grandma lived this way for a couple of years. Then one day she choked on a piece of scrambled egg, an aide was feeding her because my Aunt was late that morning. It was no one's fault. It was just Grandma's time to move to the Other Side. She lived for several weeks, but just slowly faded away. My first grandchild, my grandson Little Wolf, was born four days after she died.

"For everything that is lost, something is gained"


I love you, Grandma. You taught me so much. Think I'll catch you later...on the Other Side!


blessed be...

1 comment:

Linda Pendleton said...

That's a beautiful story of such a difficult time. Thanks for sharing.