Saturday, October 8, 2011

Old and Yet an Orphan

She smiles as I come into her room but looks sad. I ask her how she is and of course I already know, I saw the obituary, but she, having dementia, may not remember. "oh, not so good". She says, with tears, "my sister died." I hold her hand and we sit together and reminisce, talk about her sister who I had also met with, with whom I learned the history of the area, to whom I taught about dementia, why not to argue with her sister when she forgot where she was, or thought she was still young, or so many things that happen when one starts down the sad road of dementia. "I was the oldest and now they are all gone" she says and we talk about that, how strange it is to be the last one left of her family of siblings even though she was the big sister, to have her parents gone, and to feel like an orphan, an orphan, at the age of 90. Yet it's true. Old enough to remember life when there were no telephones in every house, when they walked to school, when her mother knitted woolen stockings for school. Old enough yet feeling young and vulnerable without her mother, without the company of her sister with whom she shared a room for years at the nursing home. And it's strange today, that this woman, usually so confused, anxious, who has difficulty knowing where she is, what year it is, or what she had for breakfast, is, in this moment, so lucid, and able to grieve. And I am thankful for this, as so many people must be retold again and again, and must grieve a thousand times the death of their loved one because they cannot remember they have gone. This terrible disease of dementia, this robber of history, this strange affliction that has loosed it's grasp today so she might find peace. We have tears in our eyes together, we clasp hands, we grieve this loss, we will continue to remember until she is able to join her family and is no longer an orphan in places beyond.