Leslie entered her grandmother’s room to get away from the crowd below. Her eyes were tired of seeing only black everywhere and sympathetic faces that offered no real comfort. It had been years since she had set foot here and she felt like she was invading the privacy of a person who still lingered around somehow. She sat down carefully on the edge of the bed. The sheets still smelled like her grandmother, but the warmth had seeped out of them. Leslie shivered, getting the distinct feeling that she shouldn’t be here, but she couldn’t help herself. She needed to see if those awful rumours that were being whispered downstairs were true.
Her mother had never mentioned it. The last time she had enquired about her grandmother, she’d casually changed the topic. Leslie hadn’t thought much about it then. After all, how much could an old person change in five years? The deterioration of her health was expected, but not that.
She got off the bed and began to rummage through the cupboard next to it. The old wood gave off the smell of mothballs and held nothing but little odds and ends. A small red ball that Leslie and her sister had lost while playing in the backyard seven years ago. A candle and some matches. A bronze figurine that was oddly shaped – perhaps a souvenir from the time she had been abroad, from the time she had been healthy enough to travel. Leslie slammed it shut, her fingers shaking. She closed her eyes, hoping to clear the memories that had come flooding back. Long walks on the beach in the summer. Ice creams by the sand after a dip in the ocean. Swimming lessons by the kiddie pool when she had been barely five. Berry picking in the kitchen garden out back. She needed to forget them as much as she wanted to drown in them. She hadn’t come here to reminisce.
She fell face forward on the pillow, trying to escape her thoughts. Her nose hit something hard. Tears sprang from her eyes and she clamped her mouth with her hand to keep herself from crying out. The last thing she wanted was to be discovered up here. With her free hand, she lifted up the pillow, revealing the little black notebook beneath it. Her injury forgotten, she seized it eagerly and flipped through the pages. She settled on one at random.
Don’t trust the grocer. He robbed me. I’m sure I didn’t spend all the money in my purse on vegetables. Call the police.
I’m writing this down because I know I won’t remember it. The man next door owes me money. He broke the flower pot. There was no storm last night. They’re lying. They’re all lying.
I’m writing this down because I don’t want to believe what they say. I have a dog. His name is Maurice. He’s missing. I must look for him.
Leslie paused. She was sure gran feared dogs. She’d never get one in her entire lifetime. Maybe she was even allergic. She couldn’t remember. She had to ask her mother. The entries after that got even more weird. After May 2011, they stopped. In April, they had become indecipherable. She was not sure if that was English. It was highly unlike her grandmother to spell incorrectly that consistently. Or forget her punctuation. The difference within one year was perceptible, drastic even, like it had been written by one educated person and another who had failed middle school. But the handwriting remained the same. Leslie couldn’t help but believe what they had been talking about in hushed tones downstairs. She held the proof in her hands.
She placed it back and got up to leave, but collapsed by the foot of the bed. An immense guilt weighed her down. She couldn’t move her limbs. She couldn’t bear the thought of having abandoned her grandmother in a state of mind that fragile. Not once had her mother talked about it. She had left gran to fend for herself as the disease spread, as she slowly became insane.
Leslie wondered if ‘natural causes’ was the correct reason. It should be ‘murder by negligence’. And what of those people who claimed that death had been a blessing, that if she continued to live, she would cause more harm than good? What about those who had been greatly inconvenienced by her delusions? Had her mother been right to not visit her in five years? Questions swirled in her mind till she felt dizzy just kneeling on the floor. This was too much to process, too many emotions at once. It wasn’t fair that she had to find out that gran had been suffering after she had departed from the world. She needed time to sort it all out. Perhaps time would heal everything.
‘The disease’ mentioned above is Alzheimer’s. It is fatal and has no known cure. It is very similar to dementia and its early form can often be mistaken for forgetfulness due old age, making its diagnosis difficult. It’s painful and embarrassing to those who know and highly annoying to those who don’t. This is not to raise awareness, but it is an issue close to my heart and I’ve wanted to write about it for a long time. Perhaps I haven’t addressed all the questions, but I couldn’t get past this stage. If you’d like to read more on Leslie’s grandmother and how she coped with her disease for as long as she did, I will write more. Let me know what you think. Also remember to be kind to old people. Or just people in general. The world needs more of that. Happy weekend!