I'm not sure how well you'll understand this being as young as you are, but your grandma Ann passed away on Wednesday at the age of 84. She had a massive heart attack Tuesday night and the doctors didn't expect her to live more than a few minutes. She lasted another 14 hours or so. She was a fighter like that though. Of course, the heart attack was a shock as we thought she was in pretty good physical health... besides having Alzheimer's Disease. She hadn't been herself for a couple days, but it seemed like she might be getting better Tuesday evening. Unfortunately, that wasn't true.
In the hours after the heart attack and leading up to her passing she seemed to sleep peacefully, something she often did anyway. As you know, grandma's not much of a talker, but she wasn't always that way. I know your memories of grandma are of walking with her and papa Frank around her memory care facility... Of watching her fall asleep in her chair... Of watching her diligently, if slowly, eat her food... Of hearing her talk occasionally, but not being able to make out anything she says.
No, grandma wasn't always this way. She was a spirited woman. She loved playing games (Kismet, puzzles, Royal Rummy...) and sports. When she was younger she played softball and bowled on up to three leagues at a time when she was older. She loved to watch the MN Vikings and was so excited when she got to meet Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbeck at a MN Twins event. She loved Little House on the Prairie and wished direly that she could have gone to Michael Landon's funeral. She had many collections... one of which was cows as you've been witness to. She was many things that you never got to see.
There was a time when your grandma was a very different person. She talked loudly and animatedly. She was 100% Italian - Sicilian. She was one of 9 kids and went on to have 8 of her own - your aunts and uncles. And I know I call her my mom, but technically she's my step-mom. It's been so long since I referred to anyone from that side of the family as 'step'. They are our family.
But grandma also used to be really mean to your mom. Growing up with grandma was very hard and I will forever be impacted by it. Your grandma used to take a lot out on me and on your papa. She struggled with a mental illness which caused her to be paranoid, jealous, and unpredictable. She often accused me of things that were pretty outrageous. And she tried so hard to break the bond I had with my dad, your papa. No child should be treated that way. Your papa tried to help her, but he also supported me. He was my rock and the stability I needed to get through that time.
As sad as Alzheimer's is it turned out to be a good thing for our relationship. It was as if she forgot how much she didn't like me. She smiled at me genuinely. She laughed. She stopped saying mean things. She held my hand. And in a strange way we grew in a good direction. I would have never wished Alzheimer's on her, but it allowed some peace in our relationship.
Yesterday you pointed to a picture of grandma and said "grandma" and I thought "how am I going to explain this to you? Will you notice that we no longer go to see her? Will you ask about her?" I hope you do, but I have no idea how I will respond. I know it is unlikely that you will really remember much about your grandma when you get older, but I at least hope that you remember how happy you were to go see her.
Papa's going to need a lot of our support so I need your help on this one. He spent a lot of time caring for grandma. He was her biggest advocate and the reason she did so well up until the end. He's going to need a new walking partner so I hope you are up to the challenge. Plus he'll benefit from your hugs and kisses.
I know I don't have the same struggles that grandma did, but I don't want to ever let you down and make you feel less than. You, kid, are my life and I want to give you the world. I want you to feel like you deserve good things... that you are worthy of them. I know I won't be perfect, but I promise to be a good mom and to love you with all my heart.