Observing My Great Grandmother Change

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Ninety five years old. She has been though World War Two, seen the moon landing and the rise of technology. Can you imagine the life she must have had? Now she is in a wheelchair with my great-aunt caring for her. She puts a flowery apron on her before she eats and places the food in front of her. She picks up the spoon slowly and lifts it carefully towards her mouth. Her hand is shaking. Often my great-aunt need to help her or encourage her and even praise her for taking a spoonful of food or do any simple task. Everyone in the family says “she is a child again.” Everyone knows it is true. People try to protect her like she is a five year old; shielding news from her, such as the death of her brother. I asked my mum why you would do that. Her response was “when you go to her house don’t you notice that she is always worried and anxious or that she is wrapped in her own thoughts and ends up crying. I think it is best not to add to that.” To be honest I agree. She already becomes distraught when she thinks about her past.

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She often forgets things now, more than ever. She forgets where she is, our names and who we are, she even forgets the names of people looking after her. She only remembers the past. She is often worried about not having enough food; she often asks “If I have eaten?” or “If I had enough food?” The answer is always yes. My dad says the reason why she always asks is that during the Second World War and the Japanese were invading many places in the Pacific Ocean and one of those places is Hong Kong. The citizens of Hong Kong were terrorised by the Japanese men. They would take all their crops and leave them with nothing and starving. My great-grandmother had this consent worry of having enough food for her and her baby son.

She use to laugh and smile whenever there was a family gathering or my family and I were around but now she gets upset that there are too many people or that we are leaving. One time my family and I were over of dinner and it was time to leave. We put on our coats and shoes. When we headed to say goodbye, her eyes started to water. I got her a tissue. Everyone started to crowd around her and my mum said to her “we will come back very soon. We will be back tomorrow.” In soft-spoken voice. That was the first time I comprehended the idea that she is not the same as she used to be. Everyone had been saying it, but that was the first time I completely grasped the idea.

I find it difficult when she gets upset but I know that my dad finds it hardest to see her in this state. My great-grandmother was the one who brought him up and looked after him when his parents came to Scotland. When we are over at her house I notice that he finds it hard to even look at her, frail and fragile. Sometimes she is unable to remember his name. I know it hurts him, even though he may not admit it. He says that “The following years are for us to remember, not for her. She doesn’t remember anything any longer. She’s forgotten most things. Her birthday parties and family dinners are for us, not her.” I believe that this is true.

The first time I saw her cry was around three years ago but it is embedded in my brain. We went over to her house. She was sitting in her usual chair in front of the television in the dining room. Everyone was chatting and catching up with each and other. My mum was sitting next to her and my dad I was sitting from across the room. All of a sudden, tears started to build up in her eyes and started to roll down her cheek. In her weak husky voice she said “I’m scared.” I saw my dad look at the ground then at his phone, I could see he was trying not look at her and keep himself distracted. My mum replied with “what are you scared of?” She didn’t answer. She was lost in her own world. My great-aunt said “she’s been crying whenever she reminisces about the past. Sometimes it is happiness but more times than not it is sadness.” At that moment I was overcome with sadness. I didn’t know why but as I look back on it is a mixture of reasons that I cannot pinpoint. However, I do know that she is slowly forgetting everything has she gets older and I doubt that I will be one of those people that she will remember, but I will remember her. Every time she gets upset, starts to cry or encourages her to do a simple task I see the contrast of her now and her earlier years even more.

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