Readers of this blog have probably noticed its flexible treatment of time: recent stories and ancient history have been presented in no particular order with relatively little explanation. Therefore, to orient those of you not personally acquainted with my family, I should explain that my grandmother has been in a nursing home for about a year now.
We had been trying to persuade her to take this step for a long time, as it became increasingly dangerous for her to live alone and increasingly expensive to provide the kind of full-time care she needed, but she was adamant in her desire to stay in her own home. Eventually, though, her dementia progressed to the point that she was no longer reliably sure of where she was (well, technically she was sure; Nanna is never unsure. She was just wrong), and by ‘home’ she meant the house she had grown up in as a child.
We visited her in her house shortly before the move, and suddenly she stopped in mid-conversation and looked speculatively around her living room.
“Where is this place?” she asked us. “Is this the country club?”
“No,” Mom explained, “this is your house.”
Nanna looked doubtful for a moment, so my aunt and I nodded confirmation. Then she pulled herself together and gave us all a look of pure exasperation.
“Oh, Lord,” she sighed impatiently, “don’t y’all start that again.”
This confirmed our suspicions that her physical location was pretty much irrelevant at that point. Once settled in the nursing home she remained in the dark as to where she was or why, but she retained an unshakeable conviction that she knew everyone there and that all acknowledged her superiority. Whenever we visited she would treat the nurses like her personal servants and regally introduce us to the other residents using fictitious identities.
She might gesture to the elderly lady next to us and say, “This is my cousin Suzanne,” at which point the old lady would shake hands genially with us and explain, “We’re not cousins and my name is Rebecca, but I’m used to her calling me Suzanne now.” Then Nanna would order a passing nurse to bring us all soft drinks, which never appeared because those nurses are already underpaid for what they do.
Once a family friend went to visit Nanna and found her in a state of high excitement as she watched a nurse on the other side of the room touching up the paintwork on the wall.
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re here,” Nanna said in greeting. “I need you to go and tell that girl that she is painting the wall the wrong color.”