I went to see Mac, my great-grandma, at the nursing home tonight. She was sitting on the porch with my uncle and aunt, which are her son and daughter. Mac has Alzheimer's, but when I went she was having a pretty good day. She seemed to sort of know who we were, and she kept saying that it was getting cloudy and she thought it might rain. She was calm, and she took her medicine without a fuss.
Suddenly, without warning, she had one of her little wild episodes. She got an angry look in her eyes, and she started yanking on her belt that helps keep her from trying to get up out of her wheelchair. (Her balance is not good, and she can only walk when she has someone to stabalize her.) She got very agitated, and was getting louder and louder in demanding that somebody cut that belt off of her. When she does that, we've found that, at this stage, the best thing to do is to try to change the situation quickly! It tends to distract her long enough for her episode of agitation to pass. We usually either move her to another spot, or a different room, or take her to her room and let her get in her recliner or bed. If it's really bad, we have to call a nurse and slip out, because sometimes the presence of family can prolong it. This time, my uncle Bud just got her wheelchair and said, "Let's go inside, so you can take off your belt and get in the bed." That satisfied her, so we headed in.
When we got inside, he slipped out and my aunt and I helped her get out of her clothes and into her gown. She was still a little agitated, so she fought us a little bit and fussed that she wanted her shirt back on. But once she got her gown on, and we helped her get into her bed, a calm came over her and she returned to a state that more closely resembles the "real" Mac. She smiled at me, and I got her water, and she asked for a Kleenex to wipe her face, and we talked about my upcoming trip to the beach. Her eyes were getting heavy, and we turned out the lights. She said, "But I need to get home before it starts raining." I told her she was already in her own bed, and that it probably won't rain anyway. She seemed okay with that answer. I told her I needed to head home to get ready for the beach. She said, "Well, you go ahead and do what you need to do." I kissed her head, and she smelled like the powder she has always put on for as long as I can remember.
"Don't stay out in the sun too long and have a heat stroke," she said.
"I won't," I told her.
"Don't let any snakes get you," she said.
"I won't!" I said again. "I'll see you when I get back. I love you, Mac."
"I love you, too," she said, and I think she means it, even though she probably doesn't remember my name.
And I tucked her blankets under her chin, like she likes them, and I went out.
And I realized, once again, how life is a circle. How one day you take care of people who took care of you. How we cycle from dependence, to independence, and often back to dependence again. How much better it is for people who have loved ones to take care of them, and how sad for those who don't. How one day she probably won't know us at all, not even on a good day, if she even has good days at all. How blessed I've been to have had her in my life all these years.