My husband's grandmother, Stacia Hartman, was a tiny woman, but she loomed large in his life (and from what I knew of her, in the lives of just about everyone she met). She was outspoken, quirky, bright, funny, and uncompromising, and he loved her very much. She was the "cookie grandma" of his childhood.
I met Stacia some seven or eight years before her death, before the disease of Alzheimer's began to chip away at her. She welcomed me to the family dinner without conditions, but made it clear without a word spoken that I wouldn't be welcomed into the family itself unless I satisfied her that I was good enough for her grandson. (I appear to have passed that test, thank goodness!)
We moved away and didn't get to spend much time with her over the intervening years. Later, after the disease had stolen her present and too much of her past, as its physical effects had become too severe for her to live with her son and his wife any longer, my husband went to see her in the care facility she had moved to. His family advised him not to: "She's not the same," they told him. "It's not really her any more." He is so thankful that he went anyway.
She was not the same - that much was true. She didn't know who he was, and her confusion was obviously hard for her to deal with; she suspected that he was her other son, my husband's father, but she wasn't sure. But. She was, he said, still herself: still funny, still quirky, still uncompromising. And even though it was painful for him to be with her knowing that she wouldn't look back on the visit with joy and satisfaction, he knew he had been there, and he was grateful that he got that one last chance to talk and laugh with her, to give her the kiss and hug she always demanded, to see her before the disease took everything.
I'm glad I knew her, even for the short time I did.
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