Fading Out


She sat in the plush wingback chair in the living room of her grandmas house listening to the old grandfather clock tick. It’s slow and steady hands working tirelessly to tell the time, as they had for over 60 years. She waited patiently while her mom Andrea was upstairs helping her grandma get dressed. The thought of her one day having to do that for her mom freaked her out immensely.

The house smelled like an eerie combination of dust and death. The curtains drawn, let little light in, and all of her grandmas once loved plants were now dead. The house felt abandoned, much like her grandmas memory. She didn’t understand how anyone could live in such depressing conditions.

Her mom and grandma came down the stairs slowly. Her grandma wearing a white cardigan and khaki pants. She smiled warmly and said “Oh… Hello. Who are you?”

“Hi Grandma” she said

Her grandma looked at her daughter and then at her granddaughter and made the connection “Oh… You’re my granddaughter?”

She smiled again and said “And where do you live?”

“In New York, with mom… Where I’ve always lived.”

Her mom interjected “Sophie – Don’t be so rude.”

“Well sorry mom, but I get tired of answering the same questions all the time.”

Her grandma came and sat beside her and touched her hand. Tears began to well up in her crystal blue eyes and she said “I am sorry I don’t always remember things, but I know by looking into your eyes that you love me, and that I love you.”

Sophie felt awful. “I’m sorry grandma. It’s just hard to see you like this. I mean, you used to help me with my homework and watch horror movies with me, and tell me stories about your childhood. I guess… I just miss you, that’s all.”

Andrea wiped a tear from her face and leaned against a wall watching the exchange between her daughter and mother. A part of her wished that she was sitting in the spot where her daughter was, that the exchange had happened between her and her mother. She felt a streak of jealousy rush through her blood.

“Well, I guess we should go” she said, breaking up the moment.

“Where are we going?” Asked grandma

“To dinner, to celebrate Sophie’s graduation. We’re going to your favourite place.”

“Oh.” She said “What’s the name of the place?”

“It’s called The Olive Garden.”

They arrived at the restaurant and took their seats. Sophie watched as her grandma stared at the menu in utter confusion. She was obviously having difficulty. “Grandma – why don’t I tell you what they have, and you can let me know what sounds good.”

She began taking the menu away until her mothers hand rested on top of hers. “No, you figure out what you want. I’ll do this.”

Sophie shot her a look and said “Okay… Whatever. Just trying to be helfpul.”

She watched as her mom inched her chair closer to her mother, pointing at the menu items, reading them out, and sometimes explaining what they were. Finally they settled on Chicken Parmigiana.

“Where are we?” asked grandma

“At the Olive Garden restaurant” said Sophie

“Oh. Okay. And who are you?”

“I’m your granddaughter.”

She looked at Sophie’s mom next and said “And… who are you dear?”

Andrea broke down in tears “I’m your daughter mom. Don’t you know me anymore?” It was the first time that grandma had asked her that question, even though she routinely forgot her grandchildren, neighbours and close friends along with many other essential functions of daily life.

“Mom, don’t take it so personally. She can’t help it.”

Grandma stared down at the table, confused by what had just happened, but knowing that it had something to do with her.

Andrea tried to regain her composure. She took a sip of water, wiped her eyes with her napkin, and cleared her throat. She was a mess. Inside and out.

Their meals came and they ate in relative silence, with the exception of a few repetitive questions from grandma. Suddenly Sophie threw her napkin down to her plate and said “You know… Mom, if there’s something you haven’t said to grandma or something you would like to say, why don’t you just say it. It’s better than sitting there in agony.”

Grandma looked up and smiled at Sophie then at her daughter. She knew that they were talking about her, but she wasn’t sure in what capacity.

Andrea said “What are you talking about Sophie? What haven’t I told her?”

“How about “I love you” mom. Have you told her that you love her?”

“She knows I love her.”

“Oh just like she knows who we are” Sophie shot back.

The table fell silent, only the sounds of forks and knives scraping the plates.

Sophie stopped chewing and said “You know you have never told me that you love me mom. Not once.”

“Oh don’t be ridiculous! You know I do.”

“Well maybe you can’t tell grandma for the same reasons you can’t tell me. That’s all I’m saying.”

“Just because I don’t say it all the time, doesn’t mean I don’t feel it.”

Sophie knew that her mom had an emotional block of sorts going on. She always had. Her responses to normally emotional encounters were cold and formulated. Her recent display of emotion had nothing to do with her dying mother or her lack of meaningful genuine connection with her daughter… It was menopause. She swung from high to low daily.

Andrea stared at her mom, down at her plate, and then back at her mom. She cleared her throat and shifted in her seat. “Mom – you know… that… I love you…. don’t you?”

Grandma stared up at her reserved daughter who was trying to show some vulnerability. “Thank you dear. I love you too. I am sorry that my mind doesn’t work the way it used to. It’s a hard way to live. It’s hard not to recognize the people who love you.”

Andrea took a sip of water and clenched her mothers hand, holding on tightly to what little she had left, while Sophie wondered if she would one day sit in her mothers chair.


5 thoughts on “Fading Out

  1. Both of my maternal grandparents suffered through Alzheimers, so your piece was an eerie read. Fortunately, I was a bit too young to process it on this level. Dismissing the intricacies of genetics, I’ve probably got a 50/50 shot of sitting around with my underwear (or someone’s else’s underwear) on my head in, oh I dunno, 45 years.

    Hopefully they’ll be boxers and not briefs, thus saving my family a little embarrassment.

  2. Alzheimer’s is in my opinion, the worst way to go out. You forget who people are, you can’t remember how to do simple things that are essential to life, and your life becomes a big mysterious fog. It just deteriorates you until you eventually forget how to breathe.

    It runs in my family too. If I was diagnosed, I’d be heading out to buy a lethal dose of heroin. I’d rather go out on my clock, than put my family through all that.

  3. My grandma didnt suffer from Alzheimer’s but two days before she died, while lying very sick in bed, she looked at me and didnt recognize me. It hit me hard! This was a woman who had always been strong, smart and sharp. She had a great sense of humour and was wonderful with stories. Losing her was hard but her not recognizing me was harder. I sat down and bawled my eyes out that day.
    I cannot even begin to imagine how much worse Alzheimer is. I hope i never have to know.

  4. My mother died a few years ago of ovarian cancer but had Alzheimer’s at the same time. I had a very poignant moment with her the last time I saw her before she died. I sat with her and just cried as she held me. She was my mom for those few moments again and was totally present. It still makes me want to cry even as I write this.

  5. Well you sure made me think how fragile life is. I am fortunate I still have my mom at 78 and has better recall than me and my grandmother we had till she was 92.
    On my dad’s side his sister got Alzheimers at 90 and she was always singing because she was a music teacher. I lost my dad 30 years ago so if he were prone to get it we were spared that but was cheated not having him here longer.
    I knew a couple of other people with Alzheimers,my husbands aunt and the situation she was in I would have opted for that dose of herion. It was a total non-existence.
    As always your post brought many feelings I didn’t feel prior to reading.

    Thanks for the dose of reality.

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