Thanking grandmother for memorable childhood

My paternal grandmother has been my rock for my entire life. Decades after she raised her own two children, she brought 1-year-old me into her home and started over again.
My dad moved in with us shortly after and loved me in his own way, but my grandma was there for me in every way.
She read to me before bed, combed the tangles out of my wet hair, drove me to dance and swimming and violin lessons.
I helped Nan, one of my grandma’s oldest friends, clean out her basement this summer and she spoke to me candidly about my grandma’s tenacity and fierce love.
My grandma’s friends, Nan included, had worried about her decision.
When she brought me home, they asked, “Are you sure about this, Pat? Are you willing to do this all over again?”
Nan smiled ruefully and added, “But Pat wouldn’t listen to us. She was always thinking about you.”
My grandma, my rock, has been slowly changing since I left for college.
Shortly after I came to Gannon, she gave up driving; she had pulled into the driveway one day and couldn’t remember how to turn the car off.
Over winter break that year, she was laughing at a story my dad had told when she asked, “What did your mother think about that?”
It felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room.
My dad swallowed hard and waited a few beats before saying, “Well … you are my mother.”
She blinked a few times and said, “Oh.”
Not embarrassed, not sad. Just a little surprised, maybe.
“Oh.”
That dinner was a turning point. Over the past three years, the losses have kept coming.
It is so hard to see the strongest person you know start to falter and slip away.
Now it is too late for me to thank her again for all she’s done; she doesn’t remember the hard choices she made or the childhood she gave me.
If I could give any advice, it would be to tell the people you love how much they mean to you while they’re still fully here.
My grandma changed the trajectory of my life, and I am only one of the countless people she has impacted as a daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, friend, neighbor and nurse.
Many years ago, she opened her home to her mother-in-law Milly, who also had dementia.
Once Milly had forgotten how to walk up the stairs, my grandma would help her, crouched down low with her hands wrapped around Milly’s ankles, guiding her feet up each step.
Alzheimer’s is a horrible thief, but my grandma’s kind and selfless spirit has never faltered.
She has set an amazing example for me of what it means to “be good,” to use one of her favorite sayings.
She is still capable of most daily activities, but if and when the time comes, I’ll be there to guide her feet up the stairs.
I love you, Dearma, through all the seasons passed and the ones yet to come.
I’ll be good.

ALEX STAUFF
[email protected]