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Ford Legg

Humans of Dementia Winner

She sits to my right in her nightgown with her hands softly gripping the arms of the chair. The morning light streaks across the treetops as the dew gently coats the patio and grass around us. I watch her intently listen to the calming crashing of the waves and look out onto the blue horizon.

“What will you do today?” My grandmother asks in her protective tone, as if she must know everything going on today, as if she still has to run the world around her.

“I’ll take the dog out on the beach,” I answer, with the same reply as always.

“I would love to come,” she says. Asking like this is an unusual request, like I don’t walk across the beach with her, holding her hand every morning. Of course, I tell her she can come, and her face lights up like a child’s.

Her eyes search me in an intense stare, like she is not only looking at my face, my clothes, but beyond to who I am, who I will be. Then she shifts back to her look of confusion, like she’s building a puzzle in her mind and can’t quite figure out the final picture.

“And after that?” She says.

“After that, I will bike down to Point-de-Chêne,” I reply. Also what I do every day when I am up in Shediac, New Brunswick, Canada, for the month I spend each summer with my grandparents.

“We’re having lobster for dinner, so remember to get corn and butter,” she tells me. Already planning for dinner in the morning, as she used to when my mom was a kid, when she was in charge of everything.

My grandmother grew up in Truro, Nova Scotia. Her father died as a pilot in a plane crash when she was four and left my grandmother, her mom, and her younger brother, to fend for themselves. Even as a young kid she took care of her brother, walked him to school, and made his meals. Her life has been taking care of everyone, stepping up when people needed help, and providing for others before herself. Then her mother died when my grandmother was 16, right before she was about to go to college at Mount Allison University. My Grandmother’s life is filled with tragedy, but even more full of beauty and perseverance. She still took care of her brother, even after leaving for college, and at college, she met my grandfather. They started a family in Riverview, New Brunswick, and had four kids over nine years, the second oldest being my mother. My grandfather was the lawyer for the larger adjacent town of Moncton, so my grandmother raised all four kids by herself. She made the meals, cared for each of them, and did all the chores. She constantly had to be in control and worrying about everyone and everything. She had to bring her kids to school each morning and at night, drive them to figure skating, hockey, choir, and swimming lessons. The house was in constant chaos, all organized by the matriarch of the family, my grandmother. Now, sitting here on the wooden porch in her white nightgown, she still feels the need to be in charge, to make sure everything is to her liking.

I stand up, ready to walk down to the beach, and hold her hand as my grandmother gets up from her chair.

“We can’t go yet, you need to…” the sentence trails off and she tries to remember what we must do. Her memories are like waves crashing on the beach, drifting onto the shore, and then quickly disappearing into the vast ocean. There are days the waves are strong and powerful, with only hiccups here and there, and days when the memories quickly crumble on the shore, never fully making it to the end. That’s okay, I’ll be patient. I’ll hold her hand and guide her down the sandy path to the beach, as the morning sun slowly takes the dew away, uncovering the beautiful life underneath.