Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Little Loops and a Big Loop

I went to visit my grandma this weekend. When I got there I knocked on the door and called, “Hello, Grandma?” And she called back, “Oh! That sounds wonderful!” 
She’s in a senior’s home and she’s living life in neat little loops of time; you have a short conversation with her and she’s there and she’s telling a story and laughing at yours and then she starts the same conversation over again because she doesn’t remember having had it, but she never would’ve brought it up in the first place if it wasn’t a conversation she wanted to have. So you just have it again, and it’s nice every time. You tell the same joke you told the first time because it made her laugh so hard and you like her laugh so much. You show her a video of your kids and she's so excited about it that you wait a little while and show it to her again and there is just as much delight and amazement on the second viewing (for both of you, honestly). The same questions. “Oh, how old are they now? Aren’t they just so lovely? Tsk. Is there a way to get this video on my phone?”
(I just took a break from this and sent that video to her because I told her I would and forgot. But she definitely forgot too and hasn’t been waiting on pins and needles.)
The thing that’s so interesting about an older person whose immediate memory is faltering is how clear their memories of the very distant past become. My grandma told me stories about growing up, her kids as children, her son who passed away, her father who owned a store, describing her house the way it was before they renovated it, before I came along, the upstairs bathroom in the wrong spot. Like she’s living in little loops but also simultaneously in one big loop, starting over from the beginning, somehow, more present in the past. 
It makes me wonder if that’ll be me someday, if this time that I’m living right now, the kids at this age, the house we’ve made our home, the friends I have, will someday be more real, more visceral to me than wherever I happen to be then and whatever’s in front of me. 
I find this disconcerting, but also weirdly comforting. 
Leaving was hard, because she kept forgetting I was leaving and starting up a conversation about chess. I left maybe twenty times. 
We hugged goodbye twenty times, which was not a bad thing. 

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