This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Ohio for my grandmother's 80th birthday and my uncle's marriage--on the same day. I saw lots of family, got lots of love, witnessed lots of questionable wedding attire choices, and I had an overall great time. It was also my first road trip with the wife and young Nyles, and to say the little fella tested our patience would be a supreme understatement.
First off, in order to leave D.C., we had to pack the car with our entire house. A portable crib, bottles, diapers, formula, a stroller, and this was before we got to our own stuff in the damn car. Then, the drive from D.C. to Cleveland usually takes me around 5 and a half hours with one or two stops at the most, but with a seven and a half month old, that just isn't possible. My trip took seven and a half hours there, and seven hours home, and I couldn't even complain about it. As my uncle said, "With infants you have to take your nice, efficient plans and throw them out of the window. And that's exactly what I did.
Anyway, one of the more depressing sights this weekend was my grandmother--specifically the effects dementia is starting to have on her. The last time I saw her was during her husband's funeral, and I couldn't see the dementia, because sadness seemed to be the prevailing emotion. But this weekend, there was nothing that could hide the dementia. Not even her birthday and the marriage of her son could hide what I saw. At one point, I saw her open the fridge, then open about 6 cupboards, close them all, open them up again, then scratch her head for about 5-7 minutes. Finally, I put her and the situation out of its misery, and I asked her what she was looking for, and she said she had no clue.
This went on the entire weekend. There were moments of clarity, like when she told me about her first husband (my grandfather) leaving her for a white woman in 1962 (this wouldn't be a big deal today, but when a black man left his black wife for a white woman in the heart of the Civil Rights movement, that took balls as big as church bells). But there were more moments of her rambling, talking about things that made no sense, and getting caught mid-sentence or mid-thought without knowing how to finish. It was sad to see, but millions of elders (and their family members) are going through this. My other grandmother battled this and cancer for about six months, and then she said enough is enough, and passed away on her own terms. Things don't always get tied in a neat little bow like that, but I wish there was a way to avoid this. Not to mention, this is taking a toll on my mother, who has taken on the yeoman
task of trying to take care of her (along with a caregiver, who is there while my mother works).
I'm stopping now, because this shit is absolutely depressing, but I wanted to at least get a partial thought out on the subject. I'll end on a high note