In the mid 1970's my grandparents bought a small plot of land across the street from a quiet beach in Cape Cod. It has always been a place for my family to gather A place to swim in the ocean, eat seafood, and sit on the deck and listen to the waves.
When I was twenty, I lived at the house for the summer with my grandmother. During the day, I laid on the beach and at night, I was a waitress at a local restaurant. My Nana would join me on the beach with her fishing hat and water shoes. We would sit and chat and watch the tides move in and out. After a few hours, She would excuse herself to go back up to the house to make tapioca pudding or angel food cake. We would go out to dinner at 4:30 and she would comment on the enormous portions of food. We would sit up at night and watch the Tonight Show and she would doze sitting up in a chair. In the morning, she would read the entire newspaper. Her vision was fading so she used a magnifying glass to be able to see the words clearly. Her memory would slip occasionally but she would laugh about it once she realized and we would move on. It is hard to believe that was nine years ago.
My father is retired now and because he knows how much it means to her, he is spending the summer at the beach house with my Nana. It is no longer the lazy days of summer that I remember. Caring for my Nana has become a full time job as she is in the advanced stages of dementia. When it is my Mom and Dad together, they are an amazing care team. My Mother is a nurse and able to carry out tasks that the rest of us cannot. My Mom is wonderful with her and it seems that deep in her mind, Nana recognizes her as a nurse and listens to her instructions. My Dad spent his career in a number of leadership roles so he knows how to organize and oversee: medicine schedules, doctors appointments, nurses visits, and ensures that Nana is well cared for by the people that love her.
Work schedules being what they are, my Mom had to leave her post as Nana's nurse for eight days so she could go to her paying job. To keep my Dad company, I offered to fill her space for that time. The last day at my job was on a Friday, on the Tuesday, I flew to Cape Cod.
It was nice spending that time with my family. For most of the trip it was just Nana, Dad, and me. Every time I walked into the room, I introduced myself to Nana and was received with varying degrees of recognition. I would sit with her for hours and play music that she knew. It was so rewarding to see her laugh and smile in response to The Sound of Music.
My first day there, Nana had a moment of clarity. I told her who I was and that we are on the deck at her Cape house. In response she said, "Grandpa and I got this house so that the family could come and go and come and go."
On the weekend, my sisters, brother-in-law, niece, cousin, aunt, and sister's dog came to stay. It was fun to all be together. As hard as it is to see Nana, a woman so full of grace, go through this awful disease, she has done something right in her life to be so surrounded by love. She naps on the couch with the ocean crashing outside and her family comes and goes and comes and goes.