Everyone warned me that my grandmother with Alzheimer’s might not recognize me and would remain disconnected during what would be my final visit to her hometown in Wisconsin.
She was 98-years-old and I hadn’t seen her in a decade– me, living a thousand miles away and she, living far from any airport.
I was determined to make this last visit count… But how?
I thought about the handmade items she gave us, but the afghan blanket keeping me warm every winter was too bulky to bring on a plane.
Then, I remembered the “peek-a-boo doll’. When she was in her 60s, she gave these cheeky dolls to my sister and me when we were teens. I kept it wrapped in an old record store bag up in the closet. This was just the device I needed to break through the wall of isolation and indifference.
I made sure my sister recorded the moment on video–a moment that produced so much joy, a moment that proved she could still light up the room, with her giggling and folksy Midwest talk, even while dementia cloaked her mind.
Afterward, I played the tune Beer Barrel Polka, and we all sang along. She knew every lyric.
(WATCH the video, and laugh, below)
When the somewhat-lewd Peek-a-boo Doll was shown to the other old ladies and staff playing Bingo in the next room, they couldn’t stop laughing, saying, “Kate made that?”
My beloved grandmother died this week, two months shy of 100.
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