by Vivienne Lorret
For June, RTG is focusing on our favorite charities, so I thought I’d share mine.
Each summer when I was young, right about this time, I was packed up and shipped off to my grandparents’ house. I had a room to myself with two twin beds on either side of a lace-curtained window. A maple dresser and a chest of drawers stood against opposite walls. All the furniture matched, too, which made me feel like a princess. The closet was full of alarmingly bright polyester pantsuits and flower print blouses that my grandmother no longer wore. But if you shielded your eyes and looked far enough in the back, you could find her mink stole. ;)
The first morning of every stay, I awoke to the scent of bacon, eggs, and waffles. Coming from a household of make-your-own bowl of non-sugar cereal, this was quite the treat. Not only that, but my grandmother always set out orange juice in tiny, matching glasses. And real orange juice, too, not like the Tang my mother could afford.
During those visits, I was Grandma’s girl. In fact, the gleeful words my older sisters and I heard whenever we walked through the front door were: “Oh, there are my girls!”
As the years passed, the summer stays ended and our visits surrounded holidays throughout the year. Even after my sisters and I married and started having families of our own, we were still her girls. Until one day when… we weren’t.
Alzheimer’s slowly claimed my grandmother.
At first, it only took a few gentle reminders and then her eyes would light up and she would clap with glee at having her girls with her again. Then those moments were only on her “good days.” Until finally, she was simply happy to have the attention of the strangers who called her Grandma.
Those summer visits were forgotten. The closet full of pantsuits confused her. And when asked, she'd tell you she had no idea what a waffle was.
I spent those years missing her while sitting beside her; showing her pictures from family albums; bringing her juice in tiny glasses, hoping to spark a memory.
June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. I’ve been donating to the Alzheimer’s Association since she was first diagnosed. And after her death, I left a memorial for her in the hopes that fewer people would have to suffer this abhorrent loss in the future.