Sunday, January 19, 2014

An Atypical Telling of Love: Part One

Ever since she passed away a few years ago, Mom Mom visits me in my dreams, waves of contentment undulating within me when I awake. In those precious, few moments just before I first open my eyes, I can still feel her and though I miss her so deeply, Mom Mom's presence in my dreams leaves me feeling whole. Mom always tells me, "You are your grandmother's granddaughter." We share the same wit, the same candor, the same vivacity. Yes, our bloodline is linked, but I think it is these shared bits of personality that leave me forever intertwined with Mom Mom. 

I have this one picture of Mom Mom and me that I frequently untuck from its drawer. My arm wrapped around her shoulders, we are sitting on the porch of our family's house by the lake. Watermelon, our favorite summertime food, sits on the red and white printed table next to us. This much I assume because I hold a fork in my hand. Presumably, her coffee, despite the sweltering summer sun, sits in the mug just inside the frame of the photograph. The background blurs behind us. Laughing, I am open-mouthed, closed-eyes, head-back while she is head-bent-forward, lips-puckered, and hands-outstretched. She always pursed her mouth after she said something of particular candor, usually something for which Pop Pop scolded her with a stern "Jerry!" 

With Mom Mom, life ambled on beautifully in its simplicity. Life with Mom Mom, though filled with little, special, often comical moments, amounted not to those moments, those facts, but to the warmth her presence evoked, the feelings of the sum of those moments. I think her soul was made of those sunshine beams that tiny specks of dust dance upon and those sweet-smelling summer raindrops that seemingly leap back into the sky just as quickly as they fall to the earth. 

In the few years before Mom Mom's death, she developed dementia. She resented Pop Pop for taking the car away from her even though it was because she continued to get lost in the town she called home for so many years. She stood in the middle of the market, devastated that she wrote "sugar" on her list, but she no longer knew what it was or where to find it. She sometimes forgot people's names. (Of course, long before the dementia, she called my cousin Brian Donald, a Disney character he regards fondly.) Unlike most of my cousins, I lived farther away from my grandparents, so physical distance betrayed me. 

And so did my cowardice. 

I knew what everyone said about Mom Mom's "failing" mental health. How could she be my Mom Mom if she failed to recognize me? That fear paralyzed me. If I am being honest, I would tell you that I cannot remember whether or not I spent much, if any time, with Mom Mom when her dementia took a turn for the worse. And why not? Even if I could not remain her granddaughter in name, she was still my Mom Mom. A mind might forget the words, but does the heart? I just could not handle missing her before she was actually gone. But I did anyway. I missed much more than I have the courage to admit. 

I think Mom Mom visits me in my dreams to tell me that it's okay. She understood my young heart. She understood my absence marked my fear, not my apathy. She understood my love when I approached the podium at her funeral to read the poem that in a few short breaths brought us all from tears of laughter to tears of sadness. She understood my grief when I folded up that poem, ever so carefully and slowly, and placed it in the casket with the body that looked nothing like her. It wore her clothes. We mischievously placed a tissue up the sleeve, her favorite hiding place for a hankie.  Without the warmth that defined Mom Mom, however, that body could have been anyone else's. 


  1. Danielle you are very strong to write about this. I say this because I have an extremely similar connection and experience with my grandmother. And a shame in how I didn't take the opportunities I should have with her at the end. I'm not even strong enough to write about it here, so I know it took a lot for you to share that.

  2. I love how you shared this relationship with us, so wonderful she still is part of your dreams too.

  3. Wow! Every word gave me goosebumps..Its so hard on surviving relatives who are faced with situations like yours. You are a strong woman. But in your memory and your dreams, she will forever remember, love and cherish you..

  4. What a beautifully written post. While my grandmother is alive, I can relate to your story. Although she has three kids, I am the only relative she has. I won't go into detail here but I feel a lot of pressure to be the one to care for her. Over a year ago, a dear family friend, and my grandma's best friend came to visit me in Southern California even though they live in NorCal to tell me of her concerns. She explained that my grandma has dementia that is progressively getting worse and she worried about my grandma living by herself since she'd had several falls recently and rarely left her apartment. After that talk, I was asked if I would be her Power of Attorney and responsible for my grandma's finances. I was only 22 so I didn't, nor do I now really understand how to look out for her and her needs. She's in an assisted living facility but she's unhappy, always asking, no begging me to let her come back to her apartment. I don't think she understands that her apartment is there anymore. It breaks my heart when the dementia makes her extremely paranoid and scared of everyone and everything. Luckily, she still remembers most people but her stories get mixed up. She might remember things from the past and think they are current or not understand when we try to explain something to her. It's so sad to see her this way. We have lots of happy memories which are great. She's done a lot for me and just wants to give me everything she has. She's such a giving person so to have her begging to leave just makes me so sad, makes it so hard to call her. It's just fear standing in my way. It's selfish and unfair but I just wanted to let you know that I totally understand how you feel. I want to remember the grandma I grew up with, not the one who has been taken over by this terrible mental disease. My thoughts are with you. I think it's great that you still dream of her and are able to take that little piece of her with you.

  5. Goosebumps. It sounds like you and your Mom Mom had such a deep connection. I'm so happy she visits you in your dreams, too. My grandma, who died from cancer four years ago, still visits me in my dreams. She died a month before I graduated from college, two months before Kevin and I got married, and three months before I started my first "big kid" job out of college, and of anyone in my family, she would have been the first one there to cheer me on with all of those things. I was devastated that she was not able to partake in all of those things in person, but when she visits me in my dreams, she always tells me about how proud she is of me. I cling to those dreams so tightly. Please keep sharing your stories. I love learning more about the things that make you you. XOXO


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