MEETING FOR THE
FIRST TIME----AGAIN

   I had a dream last night. My 98 year old grandmother, who is in a rest home, had decided to enter law school.
   Analyze that one.
   OK. My guess is that either 1) I long for the days when my 98 year old grandmother was still coherent, or 2) you donít have to be coherent to be a lawyer.
   Giving lawyers the benefit of the doubt, Iím going with Number One.
   The other possibility is that Iím feeling guilty about not going to visit her more often and it comforts me to realize sheís been busy studying for the law school entrance exam and hasnít noticed Iíve been neglecting her.
    That analysis probably makes the most sense. And while it helps to explain my dream, it doesnít explain why Iím so rotten for failing to visit often enough.
    The fact is I was much better at visiting when my grandmother could remember I had come. Now that sheís entered her own little world, itís a 50-50 chance sheíll even recognize me.
    The last time I visited, I brought my children, who range in age from 9-18. She was in her room, in her wheelchair, staring straight ahead, looking at nothing in particular. We all bounded into the room, full of as much enthusiasm as we could muster.
    She turned slowly, and faint hints of recognition flickered across her face. She knew us from somewhere, she just couldnít place it exactly.
    I introduced all of us to her, one by one. She had played with us, cooked for us and cared for us, all of our lives. Yet she was meeting us for the first time.
    Introductions complete, I asked how she was doing. And I got the same answer Iíd been hearing for the last seven years.
    "Iím tired," she replied. "Iím so tired."
    "Youíve got a new roommate," I said, motioning to a woman fast asleep in the bed next to my grandmotherís. "Is she nice?"
    My grandmother looked over and saw the woman sleeping. "I donít know," she answered. "Sheís never talked."
    Clearly, pajama parties and pillow fights were not on the agenda. My grandmother seemed resigned to having a roommate that slept approximately 23 Ĺ hours a day. Quiet time was not an issue here.
    I asked a few more questions, got a few more answers, and then introduced everyone again. After about 15 minutes, all of us felt we had stayed 14 minutes too long.
   "Youíre not leaving already," said my grandmother as we each gave her a hug and a kiss. "You just got here."
    Dammit. The guilt trip. One minute she has no clue who we are, the next minute sheíll be crushed if we leave too soon.
    So we sat for awhile longer as the conversation dragged. When I ran out of things to talk about I simply introduced everyone again, and she met them for the first time. It became, as always, kind of comical.
   After another 15 minutes, I announced weíve really got to go.
   "Youíre not leaving already," she said. "You just got here."
    As we climbed into the car, we were half laughing, half crying. That was not the grandmother/great grandmother we knew. That was someone else. Her mind was fading, her body only a remnant of what it once was.
    And it would have been heartbreakingly sad to witness, but as I kept reminding the children, their great-grandmother is 98 YEARS OLD. It is absolutely amazing that she is still alive.
    She lives on, day after day, slowly wasting away towards her inevitable death. I suppose thatís why I have such a reluctance to visit her. I think I want to believe she is already gone, and Iím hesitant to picture her in the rest home, alone and dying. So I picture nothing, and knowing she has no recollection of how often I visit, I visit far less often than I should.
    Then I have the dream. I just hope I donít interrupt her studying for law school when I go see her this week.
 

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