Andrea left and I had a difficult time catching my breath. This process was moving too quickly for me to comprehend. It seemed like yesterday that Mom was calling me to come over and find her keys. I kept thinking she’s only 62 years old, and I’ve been dealing with this repeatedly for over a year.
I had put off the inevitable, calling Baba. I couldn’t keep this from her any longer. This was her daughter we were talking about and I wasn’t sure she would understand, but she needed to know. I picked up the phone and began to dial Baba’s number, following a few rings she answered.
‘Hello?’ Baba said in her cute voice.
‘Hi Baba, it’s me, how are you?’ I said, knowing the next few minutes would be one of the most heartbreaking conversations we would ever have.
‘I’m fine, Paula, How are you and how is Anne? I haven’t heard from her in a few days and was getting a little worried.’
‘Yeah, that’s why I called. I need to tell you something…’ and just then I thought to myself, I can’t do this over the phone. This conversation needs to take place face to face.
‘What?’ Baba said quietly.
‘Um, maybe I can drop by in an hour and we can talk’, I said.
‘Oh, okay, come on over anytime, I’m here’, she said.
‘All right, I’ll see you in an hour, bye Baba’, I said quickly, hoping she would not ask any other questions.
‘Bye, Paula, see you in an hour!’ she said happily.
Why did I say an hour? She was only 5 minutes away by car, and now I’ve most likely made her worry for the next 50 minutes or so. I knew I could not talk to her directly right at this moment. I was still having problems digesting the last few months, I felt guilty, like I was the bad guy and this was my fault. Logically, I knew that was not the case, but my emotions told a different story. The thoughts of what could I have done differently, swirled in my head and to be honest in my stomach.
I picked up the pamphlets that Andrea had left for me to read and placed them in my purse. I could read them aloud to Baba as her eyesight was deteriorating rapidly due to macular degeneration. I knew I could use someone close to Mom to lean on, and fortunately or unfortunately, Baba was the one.
I arrived at Baba’s apartment building and went up to the 6th floor and knocked on the door. I could hear her on the other side of the door rushing to answer. I swear she thought she was still a teenager, she moved quicker than I did at times.
The door opened and as I walked in she reached up to give me a big hug. I hugged her back and sensed she had lost a bit of weight since our last visit.
‘Sit down, do you want anything?’ Baba asked.
‘No I’m okay.’ I said sitting down on her loveseat.
Baba walked into her kitchen and brought out cookies on a plate and placed on the coffee table. I couldn’t help but grin, as I’m sure she still thought of me as a kid, and to be completely honest, right now I yearned to be a kid again and not have to deal with any of this ‘crap’. I was the ‘bad news bearer’ and would continue to hurt the people I cared and loved exclusively. It seemed the more I hurt those around me, the more I crumbled and began to fade away.
There was no other way to give her the news than to get straight to the point.
‘Baba sit down, I have to tell you something about Mom’, I said while looking at the floor.
‘What’s wrong with Anne?’ she asked.
‘The doctor’s think she has early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. She seems to be getting worse every day, and sooner rather than later, she will have to be placed into a long-term care facility.’
‘But Paula’, Baba said ‘that can’t be right… I can look after her; she doesn’t need to go anywhere. She’s my daughter and I won’t have her go into a nursing home.’
I knew deep down inside Baba would not understand the urgency and what might lie ahead with this disease. I bent down, opened my purse and brought out the pamphlets.
Never in my wildest dreams or nightmares did I ever think I would be telling a grandmother that her daughter was terminally ill and there was nothing any of us could do to fix or make it better.
The conversation was sombre and quiet. I read aloud some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s from the pamphlets I had brought with me. Baba just stared at me, and then, the tears began to flow. I tried not to cry along with her, as I knew I had to be strong and didn’t want to make it any more difficult or gloomy. At the end of our talk I mentioned that I was still looking for another opinion, although, deep down inside I knew Mom had Alzheimer’s.
I told Baba that we would get through this together and all she said was ‘it’s not supposed to happen like this, there is no way my daughter is going to die before me’.
And that’s where it all changed for her. Baba’s zest for life and spark slowly began to extinguish.
© 2014 Paula Bilz. All Rights Reserved.