because it's important to recognize what is hard and sad about her situation, but also to remember who she used to be and that somewhere, deep down, she still is that person.
  1. She is childish
    It's bizarre how much this disease just turns back the clock. She forgot about how to use a computer before she forgot what computers are. She recognizes most of her relatives & family but misses recognition of the ones she's known for the shortest time (my aunt, for example, who has been married to my uncle for a shorter time than other couples in the family). She likes the things she has liked since childhood--playing piano, eating food, having picture books read to her.
  2. She loved taking care of her birds
    Her old house looked over a big ravine that had deer and raccoons and tons of birds. She maintained a bunch of bird feeders and was very dedicated about feeding them, no matter what the weather.
  3. She is happy
    90% of the time. She was always an optimistic person, and that has continued despite her brain getting more tangled up. She can get into arguments or become frustrated or sad or mad, but because she forgets about it relatively quickly, the default state is usually one of surprise/appreciation/happiness.
  4. She was a great baker
    I have inherited a tradition of always having homemade dessert available from my mom, who got it from this grandma. She made excellent pies, and date bread and cranberry bread and molasses bread and many many other things. She loved making food and continues to love eating it now.
  5. She is confused
    About who people are, or what time of day/year it is, or about why there isn't snow yet or about when Christmas is.
  6. She is a good listener and asks good questions
    I can tell her about college or friends and although she might not remember the stories later on, she can ask me interesting and relevant questions in the moment.
  7. She can't really read on her own anymore
    It's hard to read a novel when you forget what you just read in the previous chapter. But she loves children's books & having them read to her.
  8. She was a professional librarian at the University of Iowa
    an avid reader, a librarian, a mentor, a book club member; a strong, independent, feminist, professional woman.
  9. She can only play one song on the piano at this point
    Her music was something she maintained for a while even when this all started happening. But the skills are rewound just like the memories, so she can only pick out trembly bits of some carols by ear and then play her one last song, "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue"
  10. She was a hugely talented musician
    Pianist, organist, cellist, singer, hostess of singing parties, had all her kids play an instrument or sing in choirs, instilled a love of music that my mom has brought to our family.
  11. She is constantly delighted when you tell her the same story 27 times in a day
    This is great because you never really run out of material for conversation with her. It's easy to have this part of it seem funny, or like a joke, but it's truly a strange, twisted positive of all this. Because she's usually happy, she's usually up for hearing about anything and will be pleased to hear the same stories many times.
  12. She can still tell some stories of her own
    Especially things from her childhood, which are the most deeply ingrained memories that haven't been erased or confused yet.
  13. She's more anxious
    The world is confusing when your brain is tangled, especially when you don't really know your brain is tangled. She likes her routine and has great success with it, but disruptions can be stressful.
  14. She is still a deeply sensitive and thoughtful person
    Asking good questions, caring very deeply about her grandchildren, wanting everyone to be happy and comfortable, wanting to help with anything. She talks to strangers when we're out and about and crows about how much she loves having her family visit and how lucky she is.
  15. She can be irritable
    Anxiety + confusion ➡️ irritation, but only sometimes and never for very long.
  16. She was a strong single mom
    She and my grandpa got divorced when my mom was in elementary school, and my grandma worked and took care of 3 kids on her own for a long time.
  17. She thinks she has met friends of mine from college or other places
    Again, kind of funny but mostly a result of the fact that it's hard to participate in conversation when you can't keep track of the details. "Oh, I remember meeting them" is an easy phrase to throw in, particularly if our family doesn't push back on the truth of the matter.
  18. She always loved meeting my friends when she came to visit MN
    so she has met some people. she loved chatting with my junior high and elementary school friends.
  19. She thinks she has met famous people
    The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, the Pope. But not in a kind of extreme way, just if we mention anyone, her contribution to the conversation is "oh, I remember when I met them"
  20. She probably did meet some semi-famous people
    She lived an interesting and complicated life that took her from small-town Minnesota to the Twin Cities to Oklahoma to Japan to Iowa. Anything is possible.