The Unraveling Mind

“Excuse me, miss, where am I?”

Turning my hunched body slightly right, I barely managed to slide my walker into the door-jam of a room.  I escaped another collision with that darn woman in a wheelchair.  Where does she rush too?  It’s the third time she’s passed me since I left that room.  My ears burned from the droning of music I could not listen to for one more second.  After all it’s not even in my language, but then, what language do I speak?

I’ve noticed that when I talk others look at me blankly and make attempts to placate me.  They never give any answers.  It’s as if they don’t understand.

My mind wanders.  I stare blankly at the woman in scrubs before me.  A half thought enters my mind…lips moving.   I drop my head for a second.  I have to think.  I can’t look.  My senses are firing signals at my brain faster than it can process a single message.

“Home?”  I manage to repeat; the word sounding foreign in my ears.  This can’t be home, can it?  Where are my sisters, my mother, and father?  Weren’t they just here planning a birthday dinner for my brother?

My hand rises automatically to my eye and I see, as if for the first time, my gnarled hands stained with age spots.  Again my brain’s inbox is full and I cannot open the documents.  Images flash before my eyes like scenes of a foreign film.  I see a young woman twirling her skirts around the dance floor as she hangs on the arm of a handsome soldier.  Quickly, that same girl, now an old woman gripping an American flag, is sitting before a grave.  Who has died?  Like a streak of light left behind a shooting star, shrieking children run wildly through a house.  That young woman stands at the sink washing dinner dishes.  The next images are too blurry…is that the young woman or the old lady?  What happened to the soldier?  Who are these people?

As if in a defensive response, my brain, like a computer, begins shutting down one window at a time.  My mind swims and I can no longer stand.  If I could speak, I may ask the nice woman in scrubs for help, but that window slams shut.

Slowly lifting my eyelids, I blink the fog from my mind.  White walls glare from every side.  I’m in bed…someone’s bed.  It’s not my own.  Grabbing the rainbow colored comforter, I pull myself forward, craning my neck in order to look out the door.

It’s that woman in the wheelchair again.  At least I’m out of range of her wheels this time.

Try as I may, I cannot remember climbing into bed…it must be morning.  With a small groan I slide one leg off the edge of the bed and then the other.  Whose walker is that leaning against the night stand?  Ignoring the walker I grab the edge of the night stand and lift myself to upright.  An alarm suddenly sounds and I shuffle around frantically, my mind swirling, but no thoughts taking root.

“Mrs. Spear, you’re awake.  You feelin’ better now after a nap?”  The woman in scrubs kindly asks.

Since I like her big, toothy smile, I grab her hand.  “Where am I?”

The toothy smile gets wider.

“Why, Mrs. Spear, that’s the 10th time today you’ve asked me that.  You’re home – right where you’ve been all day.”

My eyes drink in the white walls and my glance catches the walker as it rests on the rainbow bedspread.

“Hoooome.”

I don’t realize the word has escaped my lips in a hushed whisper.  The word, almost ominous, hangs in the air like the last strains of music fading into the night.

No, surely this can’t be home.  My mind grasps at an image just out of reach and I realize I’ve never before seen this woman with the big, toothy smile.

———————————–

In dedication to my grandma who went home Sunday night to be with her Lord and her husband.  She spent the last several years lost in the world of Alzheimers.

I love you Grandma.

When I think of the word ‘forgetful’, I cannot help but think of my grandma.  And frankly, I don’t want to forget.  This post has been edited to join Mylestones Flashback Friday.  Go visit for more great stories!

My Grandma

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43 thoughts on “The Unraveling Mind

  1. Pingback: Still Alice by Lisa Genova {Guest Post} - FancyLittleThings.com | Christian faith, projects, Home & Garden, Style, Marriage & more…

  2. HisFireFly

    Just lost my father after years of dementia as well. Worked for the Alzheimer Society here in Manitoba for years, the stories never fail to touch my heart.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Still Alice « the domestic fringe

  4. Lisa Genova

    Tricia,

    That was so beautifully written. I have chills! Thank you for sharing this with me.

    I’m so sorry you lost your grandmother to Alzheimer’s. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s as well. She died in 2002, and I still think of her all the time.

    with thanks and best wishes,
    Lisa

    Reply
  5. Debi

    hi. this is Debi–Chrissy’s mother. This is a truly sensitive and insightful look at this terrible and not yet understood disease. It truly moved me to tears. I am so sorry for your loss and my prayers are with you. Thank you for a touching piece.

    Reply
  6. Dennis

    Hey, this is Chrissy. I’m leaving a note to let you know that Dennis read your post and really liked it as well. Made him sad too, but in a good way. He was going to leave a comment, then forgot I guess. We were running around trying to get the house ready for my mom’s visit. I wanted you to know though, that he read it too and it touched him as well.

    Reply
  7. CHRISSY

    Thanks for making me cry Tricia 🙂 Remarkable insight. Great job. What a scary world she must have lived in. I feel like I should say more but I don’t know what to say.

    Reply
  8. lemonsmm

    my grandmother died of this same thing… its hard on the family, esp when she doesn’t even remember you when you go to visit.
    get peace & comforter knowing now that she is in heaven. she has her mind back, her memory & she is made whole.
    your family will be in my prayers – i know its hard.

    Reply
  9. Heidi

    Alzheimer’s sucks! You end up losing your loved one twice. My grandpa died at 90 but he really left us a few years before. I thought the piece you wrote about your grandma really catured what Alzheimer’s patients go through. I stumbled upon your blog last night and I came back this morning to leave you a comment. I wish you and your family peace in this difficult time

    Heidi from Iowa

    Reply
  10. Pingback: Good Day « the domestic fringe

  11. jennifer

    Aw Fringe Girl, that was so beautifully written. And I am so sorry for your loss.

    My grandmother died of Alzheimer’s too. She was such a dynamic personality, so vital to my famiy, that I have often thought that her couple of years with Alzheimers might have been God’s grace to my family. If we had lost her all at once, in her health and glowingness, it would have devestated us all. But with the disease, we grieved for her slowly, were forced to let her go over a period of time. Somehow, looking at it this way and knowing how she would have done anything for her family, it makes the pain of those few years bearable. Almost makes it make sense. Just not quite.

    I will say a prayer for you and your family.

    Reply
  12. hope42day

    I am sorry for your loss…may God’s peace and love surround you and your family.
    I loved your post. It gave me goosebumps.
    I hope a cure is in the near future for those who have this devastating disease.
    Peace and Blessings…

    Reply
  13. Nikki

    What a powerful post. The story made me so frantic and feel so helpless. I can’t imagine how hard that must be for the people who suffer from this. I’m sorry about your loss…but I’m sure she’s relieved to be where her memory is fresh and she recognizes her loved ones. Thanks for this amazing perspective!

    Reply
  14. Janna Qualman

    Oh! *blubbers* This is amazing, and I have goosebumps everywhere. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your grandma, I know, is looking down, finally understanding everything again, and she’s likely very proud of this fine tribute to her. *wipes nose* HUGS.

    Reply
  15. Jenn Calling Home

    Oh my, I am in tears reading this. I am sorry for your loss and I have to say it touches a cord in my heart. My mother-in-law passed away due to (early onset) Alzheimers in her late 60s. I pray for peace and comfort for your heart today.

    Reply
  16. caprik

    I am so sorry to hear of your Family’s loss. You have honored your Grandmother’s memory in a lovely, moving way. Prayers of comfort and peace for you all.

    Reply
  17. Nina in Portugal

    “Lord, It’s me. My friend’s Grandma is with you now. You know who I’m talking about. You know her very well. She use to play the piano and sing about you when she was younger. Now she’s in your presence and we rejoice at knowing this. I’m asking that you send your divine comfort and the peace that only you can give. Hug “Grandma’s” family up close. Remind them that you love her even more than they do. Help them through this difficult time. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen”

    Reply
  18. Sue

    Hi , Tricia , I am sorry for your loss but rejoice that your Grandmother is whole in Heaven now. My mom was diagnosed with Early onset Alzheimers when she was 45. She suffered for 22 years from this disease before going to be with Jesus 5 years ago. My prayers are with you , Sue

    Reply
  19. Stonefox

    Tricia, only you can take something so painful and mold it to speak beautifully and poignantly. I am so sorry for the loss and hope that your family finds comfort in the fact that her mind is now perfectly restored and whole.

    Reply
  20. Sarah

    Hey Trish, So sorry for your loss. Our thoughts are with you at this time. What an encouragement though to know that you will meet again!

    This is one disease I pray doesn’t effect my life. Whenever I watch “The Notebook” and they are dancing and she clicks out, I just lose it and cry. I can’t imagine not being able to remember my own family let alone my husband.

    That was wonderful writing by the way. I felt like I was in the room of this lady while you wrote this.

    Reply
  21. Cher

    I’m sorry, Tricia, for your loss but I bet the memories from your younger years are awesome – the type your mother is making now with your kids. Your family’s strong faith has created strong family ties. Prayers are with you.

    The Texas Woman

    Reply
  22. Lynette

    Trish:

    Your written words do have a way of piercing into one’s soul. I am so sorry for your loss. I do rejoice, however, in the fact that Grandma is with her husband and other loved ones who have gone before her. Most importantly, she is with her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
    You and your family are in our prayers.

    Love you,
    Lynette

    Reply
  23. Steph

    Tricia, that was so expressive and beautiful. What an honoring tribute to your grandma.

    Like many have said, you are definitely using your gift. Thank you for opening a window onto your soul.

    Reply
  24. Debbie York

    Dear Tricia,
    I’m overwhelmed by your words. To be able to express your grandmother’s feelings in such a compassionate way is a testimony to your faith. To make us see what she felt is unbelievable and could only come through God’s Hand on your heart. I sit here now thinking of the Kathy Mattea song “Where’ve You’ve Been?” and I know as you do, she is truly home now with those she missed the most. If there is anything I can do for you, please let me know. The miles do not matter. Debbie

    Reply
  25. David

    Wow! Just wow! Such descriptive writing, I felt as though I were experiencing it myself. One of my grandmas (not the one I blogged about) is in a nursing home. While she’s not been diagnosed with Alzheimers, she experiences an enormous amount of mental confusion. I think you’ve described that remarkably well.

    I said a prayer for your family. You have the sweet memories of your grandma. Now she is made complete in Christ and one day you will be with her again. Peace and blessings to you.

    Reply
  26. robinaltman

    So sorry for your loss, FringeGirl. Your writing was so lovely and horrifying in describing what Alzheimer’s must feel like. Last year I lost my Uncle Milton, who was basically my grandfather, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. It was so sad to see him slip away.

    I’m sure your grandmother is at peace now. Hugs.

    Reply
  27. Mom

    Tricia, you captured Grandma’s thoughts so beautifully. She is at peace now and reunited with her husband, Mom and Dad and all 8 of her brothers and sisters.
    I know that she is playing the piano and singing to Jesus the way she used to when she was young.
    I love you!!

    Reply
  28. Mindy

    Tricia, my condolences regarding your loss. And thank you for writing, so beautifully, something so personal and serious. Your gift of making us laugh is well known. This trip that you just took us on. Amazing, intimate writing. It’s a gift, you know? God bless you and your family. ~Mindy

    Reply
  29. newlifesong

    So sorry for you loss. My Dad has Alzheimers — what a horrible disease! Take comfort in the fact that your Grandma is completely healed and rejoicing with the Lord!

    Reply
  30. Rachel

    Oh goodness, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. At least now your grandma’s brain is all new and she’s getting to hang out with Jesus. No more confusion and paranoia, just comfort and peace.

    My grandmother has Alzheimer’s too, and it’s been horrible. She always thinks everyone is out to get her and she doesn’t recognize any of us. She also has dementia. The doctors are giving her another year at the most. It’s a horrible, debilitating disease.

    Reply

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