The Walk

I spent the afternoon with my grandmother, but I don’t know if she remembers it. 

When someone you love has dementia, there is no manual or handbook on how to walk gracefully down that path. 

How do you laugh at the most ridiculous moments while still showing respect to the person you love?

How do you protect someone’s dignity when they cannot do it for themselves?

How do you have a relationship with someone who doesn’t remember the very memories that built that relationship?

How do you recover from the exhaustion of your soul?

None of these have simple answers, but the overarching rule is just to keep loving: Loving her and loving yourself enough to take time for rest, for respite, for renewal. To remember that her eyes that now fill with confusion once filled with sparkle and excitement. And while she cannot recall those memories you shared, you are now the vessel that can gather their scattered pieces and hold them in sacred trust for her. 

When she asks the same question again, know that she is just reaching for a thread, something to weave together the tapestry of her day, to make it stay fast, to find some sense of it all. 

Allow yourself to feel the frustration and tiredness because it is all very real. You are walking through an unfamiliar land, just trying to get each other home, but this time home is a much different place than either of you have ever been. So be patient as you take wrong turns. Be gentle with yourself when you need to stop for coffee. You are taking a holy walk, but a wearying one. 

When you walk her safely home at last, you will know the peace of a job well done. It is enough that it is not perfectly done. It never can be. Then you will pick up your own path again, grateful for the views along the detour, knowing that your heart has been made stronger because of the climb.