Some days, this blog is easy to write. Almost every day, it’s enormously fun to write, and I so treasure the opportunity to share my thoughts with the worlds.
But every once in a great while over the past 10 years, something is quite painful to write, but write it I really need to. More for myself, to get my emotions and thoughts out of my head and onto the page. This post right here, from Feb. 25, 2011, was one of those painful ones.
It was the day my mother and aunt moved my beloved grandmother out of the apartment she’d lived in for 60-plus years, into a nursing home. (That’s her with me and my sister at my sister’s wedding in 2002)
She had been suffering from Alzheimers, and she passed away two years later, in 2013.
It was a momentously sad day, maybe as sad as the day of her actual death, and writing this piece helped me cope.
I hope you’ll read it and let me share the greatest woman I’ll ever know with you.
This one’s a little personal…
Maybe Wednesday was just any other day for you.
In my little family, it was titanic. Epic. An incredibly sad yet important milestone.
My grandmother, Marcelle Kouvant, is 92 years old. She’s the best person I’ve ever met, and the only close second is my own mother.
For 60-plus years, Grandma has lived in a small two-bedroom apartment in Queens, N.Y. It was the epicenter of our world, a tiny dwelling that somehow held so much love.
I can tell you hundreds of stories of the joy and wonder that took place in that little home, but suffice to say, it was where you felt safe, secure and adored every single moment you were there. Whether you were family or stranger, you were loved in that apartment.
For decades, Grandma was a rock. She didn’t age, her mind was sharper than a Ginzu knife, and she always made you feel, every second, that you were the most important person in the world.
About six years ago, finally, the aging process began to take hold. Suddenly she didn’t remember that story of when you were 10 and she slept over when you were sick, or the name of that friend she and Grandpa knew decades earlier.
We knew what it could be. But we didn’t want to believe. This remarkable woman couldn’t possibly have what doctors would confirm: The early stages of Alzheimers.
It’s been called the cruelest disease, because it leaves your body intact while ravaging your mind.
Little by little, day by day, the rock of Gibraltar of our family slipped through our fingertips.
We tried to hold on to her; tried to latch on to every hopeful sign. A few summers ago at her 90th birthday celebration, she beat my wife and I at gin rummy, game after game. How could someone who could do that be sick?
But we were losing her. Home care aides came in, first four hours a day, then for eight, and then 12.
My heroic mother did so much to hold on, kept trying to make the best of the situation, but it was killing her inside, watching her mother slip away.
Finally, after months and months of minor emergencies at the apartment, it was time. The horrible decision of moving Grandma out of the place she’d lived since World War II had to be made, by my mother and my Aunt Linda.
Grandma couldn’t live alone anymore. She just couldn’t.
Wednesday we got the call. The nursing home on Long Island had a room for her. She hardly understood where she was going, and it only sunk in today that she wouldn’t be returning home.
It’s unfathomable to me right now that I’ll never be in that little apartment again. All the happiness, all the meals, all the hugs and kisses, all of it inside those four walls, is gone.
She’s now in a place where she’ll be taken care of very well, I have no doubt. And the incredible strain on my mother, which worries my sister, stepfather and I, should ease a bit.
The Earth kept spinning Wednesday night, even while Marcelle Kouvant’s apartment was vacant.
But a little part of our family’s history has faded into the shadows. It is the end of an era.
And so I am sad. But so, so grateful for all the years I’ve had with her.