My paternal grandmother is a Breast Cancer Survivor.
My paternal grandmother has Dementia.
Because of the distance between my biological father and I, my relationship with his side of the family tends to be strained — grandmother included. We have never had the relationship that I believe a grandmother and granddaughter should have, but she is still mine. I resolved, though, to make more of an effort, at least with her, because, well, I just need to.
I live in another state, so I call her every Thursday. Our conversations are almost always the same:
Approximately 5:30 pm on any given Thursday:
“Hey, Baby! Now which of my babies is this?” She’ll say, with a slight hint of confusion, but a whole lot of love.
“This is Quasha.” I smile to myself, knowing that it’s not intentional.
“Quasha! Oh, that’s my grandbaby calling me! I’m so glad you called your little ol’ granny.” I chuckle, because she is a tiny little thing. “It may take me a minute,” she says, a little quietly, but determined, “but I know that voice.”
The conversation goes in circles for a few more rounds — her asking which one of her boys is my dad, where I live now and how long I’ve been there, her saying how proud she is and that I should visit more — but I answer every question, laugh at every joke, and tell her I’m coming over every single time she asks.
But I also hurt a little. It hurts because I call on Thursdays so that she doesn’t get more confused and frustrated. It hurts because every Thursday I’m not sure how much she’ll remember, or if calling is enough.
I hurt because the memories we make now won’t stay with her, just me.
But the way she handles it, the way she shows up every day, reminds me of something down in my soul: I was born with the same stuff she is made of.
My grandmother has been through a lot, but through is the operative word. She made it through a mastectomy, burying three children, and is now making her way through not knowing — and knowing.
When we talk, her voice shakes every once in a while, but she faces it. She faces this dementia with the memories she does have, and the love behind them somehow pushes them to the forefront of her mind, even when it takes a little prodding, or a lot of repeating. There is one thing she did forget, and I see now that I should, too.
My grandmother doesn’t know what fear is, and since I’m part her, neither do I.