Tomorrow is my Gram's 95th birthday. It's also the day of her funeral. She died Monday after a nearly 12 year battle with Alzheimer's.
At the wake tonight I stared at her for a while. I tried to bring back the memories of her before Alzheimer's. All I could think about was the shell she became at the nursing home.
Then I watched a video my aunt and uncle made in 1995. There was Gram sitting in a chair telling stories with her brogue in full bloom. She was laughing that sweet giggle and waving her hands in front of her mouth like she was trying to move her laugh away. It was only in watching it that I wanted to cry.
It wasn't that I wanted to cry because she died. I still feel a great relief that it's finally over. I wanted to cry because I knew what the future held for her. I wanted to cry because I looked around at my nieces and nephews and realized that they never heard her laugh before. They have never walked into her house to smell fresh-baked Scottish Shortbread. They never climbed the tree in the front yard or played upstairs in the "secret" room off the blue bedroom. By the time they were old enough to form those kinds of memories, she was already long gone with Alzheimer's. Several of them never knew her outside the nursing home.
She spoke about her journey from Scotland to the United States. She spoke about her early days in Chicago. She told stories about her children and life. I closed my eyes and listened to her voice again for the first time in more than a decade. All the memories came flooding back and I missed her again like I haven't for a long time. It was hard to believe that we were going to bury her on her birthday. Watching the video she seemed so alive, in a way she hadn't been in more than a decade.
Happy birthday Gram. We miss you and love you.