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9.28.2010

D L R O W

Her name was June like the month of.  Really her rightful given name was Neva June, but I never heard people call her anything but June.  She was my grandmother on my mom's side.  Gram, as I usually called her, was a bit on the worried and fretting side of life.  It was evidenced in how she communicated danger to me, her grandchild.  They owned a small country store when I was growing up where grandpa had built her a full operating kitchen in the back of the store.  She cooked for and raised her own two kids, fed 7 grand kids and others in that kitchen.  Gram was a magnificent cook who catered to whatever her grand kids were hungry for.  I would dry the dishes for her and whenever it came to a sharp knife gram would quickly say, "Don't dry that knife.  You might hurt yourself."  I always giggled inside because at home all the dishes were expected to be dried and I created more danger for myself than should have been allowed.  Their store also had two gas pumps where grandpa would pump gas (oh the good old days where someone pumped gas for you).  I would play on the cement median that housed the gas pumps frequently.  Invariably if gram saw me she would holler out the front of the store, "Don't play there, someone might pull in and hit you.  Come away from there."  She never said things in a mean way, just out of a fretting worried heart of love.  She was also a very slow driver.  As she drove she would grip the wheel at 10 and 2 never really turning her head except to look directly in the mirrors and right back straight ahead.  Many times drivers would go around her (and I would have too if I would have been old enough to drive).  As they did she would raise her voice in a perturbed way and say, "You dumb bunny!  You better slow down."    She worried when you rode your bike or went near the lake they lived on or, if you had gotten enough to eat.  Really she was about serving others - and she did it through cooking, loving and playing the organ at her church.  Gram was a great organ player and my favorite song to hear her play was "Gentle Shepherd".  The way she played it seemed to ebb and flow to God with this longing for Him to come and really lead her.  Sometimes I would go with her to the church where she practiced.  I would lay under the pews in the sanctuary or just flat on my back on the front pulpit steps as she enticed the pipes of that organ.  She also had an organ at her house and I would beg her to play that song for me.  I would crawl up beside her on the bench just to watch her play both organ levels while using her bare feet to man the pedals.  She had a special lean but not a full sway when she played.  I would lay on the bathroom floor while she would bathe and we would talk.  It seemed natural to see my grandma naked and I never thought a thing about it.  She had some heartaches in her retirement years with my uncle going to prison for 12 years and my grandpa passing away.  Losing gramps was hard on her as they had never really been apart from each other except for the 2 years he was in WWII in Germany.  They had always worked at the store running it together all their married lives.  When gramps passed, gram began a steady climb downward.  It was a familiar decline as her father, my great grandfather had been afflicted with Alzheimers some years earlier.  She became different; her cooking skills less stellar, her mind forgetting simple things without even the awareness that she was forgetting and anger that came in waves mostly directed at my mother.  As whatever was happening progressed she fought my mom constantly and was just disagreeable.  She had a large stroke one day at church when she was playing the organ.  Suddenly her musical ability was gone and without being self aware she started playing notes that were not right.  The pastor called my mom from church.  She spent some time in the hospital recovering from her stroke, which seemed to only exacerbate her memory issues.  She refused to go an assisted living center, listen to my mom or go to the doctor to get a diagnosis for her memory problem (she didn't think there was anything wrong).  To ease the growing difficulty between her and my mother we suggested my parents go to Florida for the winter as usual and me and my two sisters would look in on gram.  We thought a real diagnosis of altzheimers from a doctor would help us convince her of the need to be in an assisted living facility.  The first time we took her to the neurologist she was compliant with me and my middle sister.  She, though, was not overly compliant with the nurses and doctor that day.  They give all suspected Alzheimer or dementia patients a short quiz; who is president of the U.S., what county are you in, what is your address, where are you at presently and finally they asked her to spell WORLD backwards.  Well, to say that she flunked the pop quiz of questions was accurate.  The doctor was gracious to her and never used the word Alzheimer's to her only to me and my sister.  He put her on some medicine for memory and tried to urge her that it might be best not to live alone.  He wanted to see her back in 6 weeks.  The day of the follow-up appointment gram was sitting in the front seat of my car and my middle sister in the back.  We were trying to engage gram in conversation on the way to the doctor.  There was no real responses or participation in the conversation from her.  When I looked over at her I could see she was reading and mouthing something written on a small piece of paper she held in her lapp.  I realized she was practicing saying out loud the word WORLD backwards.  She blurted out in the car, "I do know how to spell world backwards - DLRW", she said with great anger and determinedness.  I nor my sister had the heart to tell her she still did not have the word correct.  It was a horrible appointment where gram yelled and got very angry with the doctor.  I followed the doctor out of the room to apologize to him for her outbursts and disagreeable manner.  He assured me that he was used to what happens to the personality of Alzheimer patients - they sort of lose the character that seemed to mark them all their lives.  The other day I was looking for a yellow legal pad in my desk drawer at home and ran across a tablet.  Scribbled at the top binding edge of the tablet in gram's handwriting was the word WORLD spelled both frontwards and backwards. She must have been practicing writing it like she was in the car that day we took her to the doctor.  I often wonder if knowing how to spell World backwards helped her when she actually did leave this world for eternity in heaven.

1 comment:

  1. You know, if my life boils down to being able to pass a test where I have to spell a word backwards, I'm in big trouble. And, depending on what time of the month I took the test, I could very well fail and be convicted of aggravated assault on the same day.

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