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Where did Grandma go? Dealing with the reality of dementia
One of my boys helped Great-Grandma walk her dogs on a Tuesday with Grandma." - photo by Brittany Jones
My parents were taking care of Grandma, but they needed help. My mother asked if I could visit one day a week. Overwhelmed with four rowdy boys, I reluctantly agreed to Mom's request.

Grandma was waiting in the front room as I pulled into her driveway for our weekly visit. She rushed to raise the garage door. I hugged Grandma, happy to see her, but I was distracted by the to-do list racing through my mind.

The boys chased her dogs while Grandma asked repetitive questions. I yawned and repeated the same answers. I looked around the living room windows needed to be washed, carpets were dirty and dust covered everything. I excused myself to the bathroom.

The bathroom was more disturbing than the living room. The toilet ring and toothpaste residue were more than I could handle. Tears streamed down my face as I stared into the water-spotted mirror, remembering my childhood in this home.

Growing up, I lived next door to my grandparents. My siblings and I would go straight to Grandma's house after school for homemade chocolate chip cookies. On Saturdays, we would climb trees in my grandparents' yard while Grandpa did yardwork and Grandma prepared lunch.

After my grandpa passed away, Grandma began to change. Little by little, she became someone I didn't recognize. Instead of spending her days cooking and cleaning, she sat with her dogs doing nothing.

As I came out of the bathroom, Grandma had my 3-year-old on a barstool. She offered him cookies but couldn't find them in her pantry. As she shuffled around, I noticed a package of cookies on the countertop. When I pointed them out to her, we both laughed.

This was the room where Grandma taught me how to make peanut butter cups, mints and toffee. She showed me how to knead bread and take cookies out of the oven at just the right time.

Do you still make cookies? I inquired.

Her response was equal parts laughter and frustration: Oh honey, I dont even remember the last time I made cookies.

She began again with her questions:

"How's your sister?"

"Does she have a job?"

"Where is she working?"

Repeated 10 times.

We continued the question-and-answer dance until I had to leave. After hugging goodbye, she lingered in the doorway until we were out of sight.

Driving away, I was sure I couldnt do this every week. I was being selfish, I know, but I couldn't see the point of visiting if Grandma couldn't even remember I had been there.

My grandma has dementia. She can no longer drive. She can't remember what she liked to do so she simply does nothing. The grandma I knew is gone.

It made me sad, but I quickly realized I couldnt enjoy time with Grandma if I was stuck in the past. I had to accept my grandma as she was now.

The following week, I changed my approach. We went to a park. It was magical to watch her eyes light up as my boys fed the ducks. We had visited this park numerous times in the past. But to her, it was all new.

Every Tuesday, we did something new together. We went grocery shopping, to the car wash and the post office. We went to the zoo, local fairs and restaurants for lunch.

As our activities changed, so did our conversations. She still had her long-term memory, so I would ask about my grandpa. They met during World War II. Chuckling, she reminisced about how they eloped. She told me about my mom's childhood, how she broke her arm chasing boys at recess. Her favorite stories were about living in Denver as a newlywed, starting her family there, and Grandpa working on the railroad.

I also discovered new things to love about Grandma. She is unhurried, peaceful and methodical. Watching her explore the world with new eyes has been refreshing. The lessons I learn during my time with Grandma have been more valuable than anything on my to-do list.

Tuesdays with Grandma started as an obligation, but turned into precious time. As I leave my grandma each week, I know that within minutes, she won't remember I was there. Thats not important to me anymore. I now appreciate the little moments. Because life is all about the little moments.

Life is lived in minutes, hours and days. We take each moment as they come. For me, Tuesdays are for Grandma.