Memories. Such fragile things. And Alzheimer’s disease shows no mercy to its victims.
We need to learn to slow down and enjoy every moment. I’m sure my Grandma never considered that an incurable disease would steal all of her most precious memories. We had a family lunch to celebrate my Grandparents anniversary. Her children, grandchildren, and one great grandchild reminisced over her wedding day as she sat distant occasionally looking around while my Aunt reminded her that we are all her family.
I wanted her to remember. I wanted her to look up across the table, see me, and know me.
I need to find balance in my life and make intentional choices to be present and active with my close friends and family. I need to see my Grandma more, while I still have the chance. As we were leaving, I told my Grandma that I loved her and she replied, “Well, love you too!” As I hugged my sweet Granddaddy, I told him to keep taking good care of Grandma, and he promised me that he would. I said, “And, we are going to take care of you.” Through watery eyes he said, “You better.”
I am an incredibly private person. In fact, mention any of this to me directly, and I will probably deflect to something else to refrain from having to (face-to-face) discuss any of it. To reveal my deepest thoughts and feelings through this blog and put my simple online boutique on the world wide web (knowing the market, even in my own town, is completely saturated), is all quite….vulnerable.
Yet, there has been an unexpected blessing to this venture. I’ve discovered that several of my close friends have been touched by the plague of Alzheimer’s on their loved ones. So, of course, they understand the emotionally fragile nature I’m in, but their comments of “if you want to talk, I’m here for you” has meant the world to me.
At this point, I haven’t taken them up on the chats. But, if I never make a sale on my simple online boutique, it has all been worth it to know I’m not alone in this deep and desperate feeling of loss.
I want my Grandma back. I want to show her what I have accomplished, and I want to hear her say how proud she is of me.
But, that will never happen.
There’s no cure for the disease that plagues her mind.
It won’t be a huge impact, but I’ve decided that I can honor my Grandma by contributing some of what I have to Alzheimer’s research. I know that would make her proud.
Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m going at this dream with 110%. But, I’m also not quitting my day job. Smile.
I’ve sold things on eBay before. I made over 1k over the span of a few weeks by just cleaning out my closet of a few worn out designer handbags that I had not carried in years. So, creating Sarah B Boutique and joining Poshmark (https://poshmark.com/closet/echristmas40) is not an unrealistic or haphazard venture. But, I also know I won’t be a millionaire from selling beautiful things via eCommerce.
Remember when I mentioned the stacks of dollar bills and the letter from my Grandma about chasing a dream (once firmly established in reality!)??? Well, this is it. I’m not cashing in the dollar bills because those have come to represent tangible evidence of my Grandma’s memories. I hold them in my hand and remember Sarah (or Skrippy to some of you who know her), just as she held each one and thought of me.
So, I’ve matched the dollar amount of my own money as a startup to this dream. I’d like to make that money back (and so would my husband). We teach for our small living, after all, and I’m in a way too expensive (but awesome) doctoral program at Vanderbilt. But, every time I create a listing or follow another Poshmark seller, I think about how Sarah, my precious Grandma, inspired me to chase a dream. As far as reality, I’m really chasing this…with everything. Sarah would expect nothing less.
Any diagnosis of disease or illness is hard. I know that no one lives forever here on this Earth, but dementia in any of its forms is a cruel thief. The theft by Alzheimer’s is stealing memories from my Grandma. Not all at once. The robbery is slow and meticulous until Sarah cannot remember how to function doing the simplest of tasks that we all, of sound mind, take for granted.
I never expected the thief to target my Grandma. Her mind was always constantly engaged with tasks that she was even keeping straight and remembering for others like Tommy – that’s my sweet Granddaddy. A hard worker, a man with high expectations, ambitious, and the most empathetic caretaker I’ve ever known. When I was young, my Granddaddy opened his wallet to a special compartment to give me some money. I asked him why he had money tucked away there. He said, “I always keep money to the side so that if I run into anyone in need, I always have some help to give that person.”
To all the men in my life – I love you all, unconditionally. But, I must admit, my Granddaddy Tommy is the best man I know. I’ve always thought that. Now, as he takes care of my Grandma, his bride Sarah, I admire and respect him one thousand fold what I did before. Now, it isn’t always pretty. My Grandma has come to school programs with her hair flat and combed over (you know, like how he combs his hair) and sometimes her shoes don’t match. But, I have to give him credit. For the first time, she isn’t laying out his clothes; he’s laying out hers. She isn’t driving him places; he has to navigate. She can’t remember people they meet out in the community (and my Granddaddy still doesn’t know, but he always does a good job of making everyone feel known).
The problem with theft of the mind is that you can’t get it back once its been taken. It’s the ultimate feeling of powerlessness.
What is it about making a sale that is so exhilarating? Sure, the money is nice, but I’ve been reflecting on what it means to me. I believe there is some sense of belonging, acceptance, and being known. There is an incredible amount of gratitude that goes along with making a sale, too. My little known existence to the world, yet someone found my closet or my website and decided to trust me and make a purchase from me.
As I go along on this venture, I do not want to lose sight of that. As I carefully package each item sold, I think about the person I am sending it to, and I am hoping they love it just as much as I do (really, I hope they love it even more). That is where I continue to find inspiration. Making a sale is inspirational! It is energy to keep going. Oh, and I absolutely love making pretty packages, and I hope each customer finds joy as they open it.
Sixteen. New Car. (Well…new to me…it was a beat up, barely running Ford Probe). Know-It-All.
I didn’t need anyone to tell me anything at 16, because I had finally arrived at the time in my life where I knew all the answers. While incredibly proud of me, I think my Grandma sensed a bit of stubborn (from her son, of course) and a bit of recklessness (she would end up coming to my aid many times as I tried to figure out how to be an adult). For at sixteen, my Grandma realized that more than ever what I needed was some encouragement and advice.
I recently came across a three-page letter, while I was cleaning out to make way for this new dream I’m chasing. To Erica…from Grandma – on my sixteenth birthday (the date was included but that doesn’t matter here!). I wept through page one as my Grandma recounted her most cherished memories of our times together. The detail of colors, events, and dialogue was so precise. She often remarked how happy it made her that I “wanted” to be with her (silly Grandma-where else would I want to be?!?!). Unlimited cokes, popcorn, Anne of Green Gables movies, and laughter, while we made cozy pallets on the floor.
As the late stages of Alzheimer’s sets in for my Grandma, Sarah, I’m so thankful for whatever compelled her to write a three-page letter to her granddaughter on her sixteenth birthday. I remember each detail exactly as she described, and I will have to find peace in knowing that my most treasured childhood memories were hers, too. For now, I’m sad…no…devastated that when she sees me she can’t recall that little girl eating all of her popcorn, the sixteen year old know-it-all, or the adult today who still loves her with everything (and would still have a sleepover to watch movies, laugh, and create a cozy pallet in the floor).
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a memory is worth a million.
Unbeknownst to any of her grandchildren, my grandmother collected dollar bills every time she came across one with a matching letter to a grandchild’s name. This Christmas, as this was being revealed, I looked through the stacks of dollar bills in awe of how many times Grandma thought of me. Nothing about this post is to brag about the amount of dollars my Grandma hoarded away. In fact, the monetary value is meaningless compared to fact that every time my Grandma held a dollar bill with an “E” on it, she thought of me. I will never cash them in, for what they represent is far more precious.
As dementia bests my Grandma, whom I always thought would think perfectly and live forever, I have stacks of individual memories as evidence of her remembrance, all while her present-day memory fades.
I’m inspired by Sarah (that’s my Grandma). I’m inspired to do something for me while doing something for others. So, I’m setting out on a venture to feel beautiful by making others feel beautiful. In a recent letter that I uncovered from my Grandma, she challenged her sixteen year old granddaughter to love God, appreciate her momma, never stop learning, work hard, and chase a dream.
I’ve chosen my dream: Sarah B Boutique I hope you will come along with me. I’m inspired by Sarah. Who inspires you?