When my beloved Grandma started to become forgetful, we would smile and put it down to old age. Surely it’s natural to forget things when you’re in your 80s?
The alarm bells only started to ring when she was no longer able to do things that had once been second nature.
Having been a cook and avid baker for almost all her life, her cakes were legendary. Until one day she could no longer remember how to use the oven.
She would serve cups of tea with salt instead of sugar because she would forget which pot contained which seasoning.
Having lost my Grandad a good ten years previously, my Grandma lived alone. She was proud and in some ways stubborn. She certainly didn’t want to admit that she was struggling and needed help.
Eventually we got the diagnosis. Alzheimers. We were devastated, we knew it was such a cruel disease.
After coming to terms with the diagnosis myself, I knew I would have to explain to my 3 children. My then youngest son was 4 at the time and he was a regular visitor at Grandma’s and they shared a mutual devotion.
I found it hard to explain to him. The complex occurrences going on inside Grandma’s mind. I searched but struggled to find any books that would help him understand it all at such a young age. There were books on coping with death of a loved one but next to nothing on Dementia/Alzheimers.
That’s when I decided to take matters in my own hands and write my own poem, trying to help children learn to accept the changes that are happening to their family.
They say there’s no one quite like Grandma,
And for Benjamin this was true,
He thought that she was wonderful,
There was nothing she couldn’t do.
She could bake the world’s best cakes,
She could sing the funniest song,
She could dance around the kitchen,
Not caring the moves were wrong.
He would love going to his Grandma’s
Where the air smelt like fresh bread,
Where the living room was filled with games
And books waiting to be read.
He would sit upon his Grandma’s knee
And tell her about his day,
He would tell her that he loved her
Before he ran off to play.
Grandma was always laughing
With a twinkle in her eye,
As she always gave him an extra slice
Of her famous apple pie.
Until one day something was different
She didn’t seem the same,
When he went to say goodbye
She couldn’t remember his name.
She would forget the things he told her
Like being in his school play,
She would no longer sing that silly song
He noticed in dismay.
“Why can’t she remember me?”
Asked Benjamin with a tear.
He couldn’t understand what happened
To the Grandma he held so dear.
“Of course she remembers you”,
Said mummy with a cuddle
“But sometimes Grandma gets confused
And her thoughts become a muddle
We just need to be patient
and remember to be kind,
Let’s focus on what’s in her heart
Not the struggle that’s in her mind.
You know that Grandma loves you
That continues to be true,
Just make sure that you remind her
She has a grandson who loves her too.”
And although she would have bad days,
The good days would come too
When she would laugh and sing along
Like the Grandma he always knew.
There were days where she would struggle
And the forgetting made her sad;
She wished she could still bake and read
And do the things that made her glad.
The things that had been so easy
Suddenly seemed so hard
She could no longer complete a puzzle
Or sign her name inside a card.
But whenever Ben would come to visit
She would greet him with a smile,
When he’d ask if he could stay
And play with her a while.
He knew that things were different
But her love for him remained
Which was much more important
than just remembering his name.
At times he would feel sad
And miss the times of old,
The silly songs that she would sing
And the stories that she told.
But although she may forget
About the special times they’d shared
Ben felt lucky to have a Grandma
That he knew had always cared.