As I started this post it quickly became evident that I would need to split it into two parts as there were so many photos and emotions that I have wanted to document over the last several years but have not had the time. Since time here at home or specifically on the computer is becoming more prevalent again, I am able to start documenting again.
Nearly every Tuesday, sometimes another day of the week, for the past few years I have gone over to help take care of Guelita as her health began to decline. Sometimes she would be awake and ready for the day, but many mornings I would help her prepare for the day. She would sometimes giggle and tell me stories about Guelito as she got ready for the day. She always wanted to look nice, even though most days she stayed at home. In the early times, we would take walks up and down the street and she would point out the beautiful flowers she loved or an animal scurrying by. She loved the beautiful things of the world and walking slowly looking around more carefully with her holding on to my arm is something I hope I will never forget.
Some days we would sit in the front living room reading the paper/church magazine or watching the children go to and from school. Our conversations became more infrequent as she slowly decided to stop wearing her hearing aids, but there was something beautiful about companionable silence. Just being together was enough.
After breakfast or lunch, we would sit and watch a telenovela or a cooking show. She loved cooking shows and we would talk about how we could alter the recipe or the horrible ingredients that were added. Until the last 6 months, she would always work a crocheted edge of a receiving blanket and I would work on an art journal or a quilt block. She always loved to see what I was working on and I always loved seeing the edges she would create. I never saw her with a pattern. Sometimes there was a particular baby she was making them for a sometimes it was just to have some on hand. Each of my 9 children was wrapped in a blanket she crocheted. She loved babies, she loved my babies and it always gave her great pleasure to watch them play out the window or sit with her on the porch.
I started taking Ellie with me last year when Guelita's Alzheimers's really started getting hard for her and she would become frightened and agitated more often. On accident one day when Ellie came over with on the children an interesting thing happened. She had been quite upset the entire time I was there and as soon as she saw Ellie she calmed down, of course seeing the children in tow also helped, but after that, I brought her when I could. Ellie would sit by her feet or nap on her couch and it was calming for Guelita. Occasionally she would pet Ellie, but mostly she would just talk to her.
As her illness progressed and she continued to lose memories, one of the things she loved was to look at the old photos of her parents and siblings, of their lives as young parents and remember. She would laugh and tell me who everyone was and something new about each person. Sometimes I would be the only time she was animated and responsive and I although I saw those photos hundreds of times over the last 6 months, occasionally multiple times a week, seeing the joy and pleasure it brought her was worth the repetition.
(SIDE NOTE: My parents set up a family google drive that the family could access and add photos to. It's been a great resource for us to access at any time.)
Some days I set up my iPad to record our conversations as I knew our days would not always be this way. I wanted to have a record of her stories, of the things she remembered. She never complained when I would pull out the camera to take a picture or record she was always patient with me. On this day I was scanning (turboscan pro on my phone) an old family recipe book that one of my aunts put together. We were just talking about who had submitted what recipe and she would tell me stories about her father.
As her memory continued to fade my mom created a couple of chatbooks filled with photos of her youth. She loved sharing the stories and people in the photos. One day every single picture made her giggle remembering something about the situation or clothing people were wearing. I loved hearing her laughter and seeing her smile.
I miss this time with her. I still have her name on my calendar and I haven't wanted to delete the appointment yet. I'm not sure why because I am so happy for her, but somehow deleting her name from my calendar makes things.... I don't know. Why I hesitate or how to explain it seems difficult. It's silly I suppose, but I don't want to forget those times and somehow deleting it is one step towards forgetting.
I don't want to forget her smile as I would walk in the door. I don't want to forget her patting my cheek or giving me a kiss. I don't want to forget her motioning finger that she needed me. As I leaned, over asking what I could help her with her reply, "I just need you." She then caressed my face and we would sit side by side.
Before we lived next door to Guelita I would try and go see Guelito and Guelita nearly every week and more often in our early marriage when we lived around the block. I have always been close to my beautiful grandmother and the last couple of weeks I find myself wandering over to the house trying to find a purpose as I try to find a rhythm to my days again, the prolonged virus has also played a factor in this as I have slept for days and days.