The Granddaughter


Yesterday, I got to capture the sweetest moment with my Mom and Sophia, my soon to be ten year old. If it has been a day that I haven’t visited her, I try to make it a habit of calling her before she goes to bed. It is a way that I connect with her and it usually gives me a laugh before bedtime. Her explanations of her day vary from suggestions of me taking her for lunch, bringing her more Snicker’s or she has no idea what she has done today. It is a short conversation, but I enjoy it.

Sophia came in from outside and asked me if she could call Grandma tonight. I said ok, but to let her know who you are right away so she doesn’t hang up. She dialed the phone and went in her bedroom. I could hear her from the kitchen:

“Hi Grandma, it’s Sophia. How are you?” Sophia proceeds to tell her about school, homework, biking to a friends house and her hockey practice. She asked what she had for dinner, is she in her jammies and did she watch Wheel of Fortune.  Just her tone in how she spoke to Mom, made my heart ache. I wish I could have heard the other end of the conversation and wondering how my Mom answered her. It is, by far, the longest my Mom has stayed on the phone. It might have been Sophia’s gentle way, her not getting frustrated with her and just agreeing with my Mom. When their conversation was over, Sophia handed me the phone, like it was no big deal. The first thing my Mom said to me was “I really enjoyed that”. A few minutes later, I tracked Sophia down and told her how that made Grandma feel. Her response, “It was nothing”. But it was really something…

When I found out I was pregnant with Sophia, my parents were one step beyond thrilled. I think they might have been more excited than we were. My parents were 77 at the time and had waited so long to be grandparents. The minute I told them, I know my Mom started to make quilts. I could supply a small nation with the amount of blankets/quilts she made for this baby. They waited patiently for nine months. I loved the attention and my mom just thought of ways to love this baby.

When my water broke at 12 midnight, we waited until the morning to tell them we were on our way to the hospital. They packed a bag and left Starbuck to drive two hours to Plymouth. I am sure my Dad sped the whole way. Little did we all realize that Sophia had other ideas and she wasn’t born until the following day at 3 AM. My Mom and Dad stayed the whole time at the hospital and waited for their first grandchild to be born. When Steve finally came out to the waiting room, he said, “Oh boy, she’s finally here”. Of course my Dad heard boy first and was thrilled. I love that Steve had to tell him again, “It’s a GIRL!” And so our love affair began with her.

If you look in my Mom’s journals starting in 2003, it is mainly about Sophia. I love how she wrote about her, planned trips to come see her and just her genuine love for her. She was mighty spoiled, I will admit. They had a special kind of relationship and I was so glad that they had that for almost five years, until Emme came along and there were two to love. And as you can imagine, Emme was just as loved. Both of the girls middle names are named after Mom.

Sophia has spent ten years with Mom and has watched her memory fade. She is patient with her, even when she forgot about her last winter, when I know that it hurt her feelings. I explained to Sophia, that she was not able to see her as much due to hockey and school. I think she went a few months without seeing her. I reminded her that she would always be in Grandma’s heart and that even if she couldn’t get her name right, they had a close connection that would never go away. That seemed to help her understand such a crazy disease, that even I don’t understand.

I reminded Sophia of all the trips we have taken with Grandma. For years, after my Dad died, Sophia, Mom and I traveled to some fun places. We spent time in Hayward, Bayfield, Madeline Island, Galena, IL, Door County, WI and last year we took a southern trip/adventure to Wabasha, Red Wing and Winona. The last trip was harder, so we have traveled on the Mississippi River and we have gone for many car rides. I am sad that our trips are over, we just need to make different memories.

To say I am proud of Sophia is an understatement. She has spent ten years with Mom and has gone through just as many high and lows. I hope that she remembers all of this and keeps her heart open and can understand that all of us are not perfect. To her, it’s no big deal, but to us, we know it is so much more.

Sophia and I are walking again this year for The Alzheimer’s Memory Walk. This is our seventh year walking and last year our team raised $4,000.00 for research and respite care. If you would like to donate, please send me an email and I can send you a link. Even the smallest contribution makes a difference.


The Pity Party

I’m having a pity party…just a party of one today. I was thinking about some issues I have been working on in my brain and needing my Mom to help me get through it.

We all have people in our lives that are our go-to people. They know our secrets, know how our brain works and would never judge us on our choices. We talk to that special person about things that only matter to us.  That person is my Mom.

Over the years, this has changed, as you can imagine. I am watchful and careful about the things that I tell her. Many times, she will only remember snip-its of what I say, not remembering our conversation or she will remember some of it and be worried. She doesn’t know this, but I have kept certain issues very private, not really sure how much she will understand and saving her the worry if she does remember.

There are many reasons to hate this disease but one of the top reasons is that it has robbed my Mom’s brain of all of the years of memories. I was trying to explain this to a girlfriend a while ago. The best way to describe it is that her brain is like a community filled with memories. So much is kept in that small community. Memories like getting us ready for the school year, working at Lutheran Social Services, cooking for the seniors, singing in the choir, attending my sporting events, working in her garden, walking and enjoying her friends. All of that is kept up in that small community of her brain, but there is a wicked storm that is invading her community/brain and it is called Alzheimer’s disease. It is a storm that nobody really wants to see and it has caused destruction and sadness.

All of the diseases people go through are difficult. They all take their toll on the ones we love. Please understand that I know all of them are difficult in their own way. Alzheimer’s has robbed my Mom of her community in her brain and our private conversations.

Over the years, she has guided and listened to me on so many issues and struggles, always with a comment, solution or just a simple…I know you will get through this. I don’t really have that any more and I miss it.

Many of you do not have your mothers or fathers any more and have also lost that connection . I still have my mother, which I am thankful for but that connection is lost. Her community is slowly drying up and fading away. 

Ambiguous loss is a difficult road…she is physically there but yet, in such a different context. It’s a roller coaster ride that we are both riding and really would like to get off because it is both making us ill.

So for today, just attend my party. I’ll get through this day and know that tomorrow it will be better. I’m off to see Mom and to hopefully play some Bingo.

In conclusion, I’m long in over due in thanking all of you who have taken the time to write a note, call me and ask how mom is doing and just telling me about your own experience. Some of you are struggling with the same issues and I have enjoyed hearing what works, doesn’t work or that you just keep plugging along also. You are free to join my party at any time.