Sunday, March 30, 2008

Remembering Nana

I remember how my grandmother used to say that food she liked (desserts, generally, Nana had a huge sweet tooth) were "out of this world". At least I think I remember her saying that. It seems like the memory fits, but I can't seem to conjure up a specific instance. It bothers me that I can't. I'm losing my memories, which is ironic considering the circumstances. My grandmother only died a few months ago, but the grandmother I knew and loved had already been gone for many years by then. With each passing year another piece of her personality fell away. With each memory that disappeared, a piece of her essence, of what made her her, disappeared along with it.

I didn't really grieve when she died. The grandmother I knew and loved, my grandmother, my Nana, had been mourned slowly, painfully, with each family connection she lost. First, she forgot my children's names. Then, she forgot I had children. After that it was my husband. Eventually, she had trouble remembering who I was, one of only four grandchildren. Near the end, she didn't even understand that her husband of sixty years had died, which I suppose was both a curse and a blessing. She didn't remember her own mother had died over 35 years before and kept asking to visit her, but she didn't recognize that the woman she was asking was her own daughter. Her only daughter. How do you grieve for your mother when she's sitting right in front of you? I don't envy my mother that, and truth be told I was grateful I lived on the other side of the world and didn't have to witness the decay firsthand.

My grandmother, the Nana I remember, was a gourmet cook who wouldn't let you up from the table until you'd eaten the equivalent of three entire dinners. She and my grandfather took my sister and I to Disneyworld when I was 12, traveling 24 hours on the autotrain because they couldn't get us a flight. She loved to pinch her grandchildren on the bum, saying "who's got a better right?" She never met a girl who wasn't pretty or a boy who wasn't handsome. During a visit to Israel fifteen years ago she conveniently "forgot" that the cakes she so loved to order for dessert would always come slathered in whipped cream and chocolate sauce, and would feign surprise as she delightedly ate every last drop (after having refused most of her dinner, saying she wasn't hungry). Or was she not pretending to have forgotten at all? Was this the earliest stages of dementia making their appearance? A cute eccentricity, or something infinitely more sinister?

I miss the Nana who would always bring back candied almonds from Portugal, which I loved, together with those awful crocheted collars, which I didn't.

I miss talking with her about the boys I dated, and the way she later teamed up with my husband's grandmother when they happened to be spending the winter in the same Portuguese apartment complex. The two of them had the wedding reception planned through dessert years before we ever got engaged - and then denied any scheming whatsoever.

I miss the grandmother who thought every new dessert was "out of this world".

She's been gone for a very long time already.

The Sunday Scribblings prompt for this week was "out of this world".

21 comments:

Lucy said...

What a wonderful grandma! You are so lucky to have known and loved her.Dementia is such a vicious theif. Stealing our precious memories.
This was a beautiful tribute to a very loved lady.

Remiman said...

Robin
Your Nana was a wonderful person and you are doing a wonderful thing to record her and your memories of her. Not only for you but for your children and theirs. In a minor way it's how we can curtail the lost memories of our special people.
rel

Patois said...

I'm so sorry you lost a wonderful grandma so long ago. Your recall of her is filled with love. How lucky you are.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Oh, Robin, this is beautiful -- and a fantastic take on the prompt. I hadn't thought of it in these terms.

I lost a grandmother to Alzheimer's, too. I totally know what you're talking about here.

(and congrats on winning Shelly's Scared contest!)

Wine-dark Sea said...

sweet...

WDS

laughingatchaos said...

I lost my Gram to Alzheimers almost 3 years ago and it was so hard to watch. My mom and her brothers had the worst time of it, watching their mom get worse and worse. I miss her. She was a delightful woman; she and A would have been the absolute best of friends, they're the same personality. Alzheimers sucks. This was beautifully written.

Granny Smith said...

What a wonderful post and how sad! It brought back memories of my maternal grandmother with her chicken soup with home-made noodles. I lost my beloved mother-in-law to Alzheimer's.

Your love shines through this beautiful tribute.

anthonynorth said...

Beautiful memories. We never forget such things.

Jennifer Hicks said...

our grandparents played such important roles - i recall mine as being magical, so capable and always reliable.

Becca said...

I had this experience with my grandmother as well, and now I'm having it again with my mother in law. It's terribly hard.

I'm glad you still have good memories of her, and all the things she did that were "out of this world."

angie said...

I really enjoyed reading about yoru nana. She sounds like a kindred spirit as I LOVE dessert, too.

Dorit said...

I loved reading this post
My mom also said 'out of this world but dementail took that away
thanks so much for sharing

Janet said...

Robin, I loved this post! It made me think of my Nana, who sounds as if she was the complete opposite of yours :-)

Mrs. W said...

Thank you for sharing these beautiful memories of your nana. You are such a talented writer... it brought tears to my eyes.

My sweet sister-in-law is watching her own mother decline into alzheimer's, and so I see this kind of pain written on her face on a regular basis... it is truly an awful thing.

Casdok said...

A sad but beautiful post.

Shannon said...

Beautiful post about your Nanna. I cannot imagine what living with a slowly darkening mind must feel like. I am sorry that you lost her before she was gone. It sounds like she was a wonderful woman!

gautami tripathy said...

This is such a beautiful post and that much harder to read about a beautiful person. Sad..

debris of our making

Phyllis Sommer said...

what a sweet and wonderful memorial.

Kim said...

Robin, she sounds like a great lady. Thanks for sharing your memories of her with us.

keith hillman said...

Your piece is filled with warmth and tenderness

Ali B. said...

Wow. I have chills reading about your Nana. She sounds wonderful - embracing and filled with life and love, even as she schemes about your wedding and pinches bums. So hard to watch the people we love deteriorate. I'm starting to understand that the line between this world and the next isn't always so clean, or so instantaneous. That sometimes, people fall away from us over time.

You gave me this link before our end-of-summer vacation, and befoe the back-to-school, and I didn't get a chance to read it until now. But I'm glad I finally did. This was lovely. Thanks.