A Letter to My Granny With Dementia

Dear Granny,

I know you’re still in there somewhere, however vague the resemblance. It’s been a whole year since I went away, and I hope you’ll forgive me. The cat doesn’t, he doesn’t love anyone but himself, but he misses the cheese you would feed him every day. The dog misses you greatly, and not just because of the cheese. He’s lost a lot of weight since then though. You’d be impressed.

You have always been one of my greatest teachers: you taught me how to ride a bike on hot summer afternoons after school and how to tie my shoes even though I wouldn’t stop complaining.

Now I’m reminding you how to hold a pen and write. Hand in hand we sit writing cards. You’re eager to give up, but I’m trying to follow in your footsteps and not let you stop until the letters come, followed by words, no matter how squiggly they are. I’m not as good at teaching as you, though. Not as patient or warm.

You never made me a bad mug of tea either. Don’t tell Dad, but they’re just a bit better than his! Assam tea with a tiny bit of milk and no sugar, in that Wallace and Gromit mug with the nose that turns red.

You still offer me a cuppa every time I visit. You tell me you’ll make me one of those lovely mugs of Assam even though you have no kitchen anymore. I daren’t tell you this isn’t home because I suppose it is now. It’s just not home home.

It isn’t home without the dog driving you round the bend. You were always too good to him, feeding him cheese every day and taking him in the garden whenever he wanted. “It’s good exercise,” you’d tell us with a smile on your weathered face. The dog never complained, and we couldn’t either. We could laugh about him barking whenever someone dared walk past the house then.

It broke my heart to watch the laughter turn to frustration as you paced to and from the kitchen every time he barked, and it broke his when you couldn’t manage it to the door to let him out in the garden.

I’m sorry I never became an astrophysicist like you wanted me to. Writing will suffice, right? You remember those gruesome tales I would write in primary school? I blame you entirely. Too much Poirot and Midsomer Murders on school nights.

I still write a lot but not about murders. I write about something far worse than that. Imagine sitting on a hill overlooking vast green fields, trees, and towns, the sun sinking behind the horizon. As it does, the towns slowly dim their lights and go to sleep. One by one, the stars go out. There is no wind. Everything is still, perfectly preserved in the inky blackness. You wait for what seems like eternity for the sun to crown the horizon in light once again, but it never comes. There is just hazy blackness and stillness. Sounds frightening, doesn’t it? Knowing there is life, but it’s not living. Just a permanent state of stasis. Is that what it’s like for you? Does your head scream for clarity, or is it painless? Are you at peace?

I promise I won’t spend my whole life apologizing, that would be selfish of me. Instead let me thank you for being there for me when everything came crashing down. I will only apologize that I can’t do the same for you. I’m off to make you proud, I am.

When it is dark I will hold a candle beside you, even if the glow is meager and short-lived. I will tell you a thousand times that the dog is fine and reluctantly remind you that I have to leave again tomorrow and never grow tired.

For as long as you brandish me to the other ladies like a trophy and proudly tell them “this is my granddaughter,” I will never give up on you.

See you soon. I promise.

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Thinkstock photo by Ingram Publishing

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