We called her Maruja
The day my Great Grandmother died i didn't cry. I finished talking with my family over Skype, i turned my iPad off and i just sit on my bed. I stayed in silence, looking at my hands that had fallen upon my lap. It felt strange, i wanted to be sad and despite the emptiness of not seeing her again, i could not find a reason to be sad.
Her name was Elizabeth, we called her Maruja
My Great Grandmother had Alzheimer, she started showing signs of it when i was around 12. Or at least that’s the age that i have a recollection of acknowledging the decease. I witness the sorrow and confusion, the mornings where she couldn't recognize anyone, and the moments she jumped in her memories. The hardest part was for my grandma and my mom. For my grandma she had to see her mother forget her daughters and sons, see the person she call mother become a husk of her former self. For my mother it was the same, with the aggregated to look over my grandmother and make sure she didn't fall in depression, and be for her to help with anything needed.
On my part i don't remember her as a person. I mean i don't remember her as her, i remember just a person that enter and fall out of memories. But at the same time it gave me a glimpse into how she was in her younger years.There is one time i remember fondly; One time my mom and i were driving her back from a doctors appointment.
The visit to doctors were always something dreadful for her, at the time she reach her 90s her skin lost all moisture and become leathery and fragile. And so doctor regularly needed to take her pulse and take blood samples, which turn painful and make her irritable and angry. Normally you would hear someone argue and complain the entire day after having to go through all that ordeal, but then her Alzheimer would kick in, and she would forget all of it.
During one of those times, we were driving her and my mom was chatting to her, distracting her and making sure that if she had a jump in memory she was in a safe place. Ready for an explanation, and then during one of her answers she went quiet. Completely silent, something that trow me off, so i turned around from my front seat and looked at her:
“Are you OK Maruja?”
“Where are we going?” she asked in a shy voice.
“Home, we are going back from the doctor”
I looked at her with curiosity, she was using a tone of voice that i have never heard before.
“i cant” she said still looking out the window.
“cant what Maruja?”
“i cant leave, i need to be there”
“Be where?” i was curious, she sounded so different than what i used to know and i could see a different look in her eyes.
“I need to be there in the school, papa said he would pick me up. He would be mad if I’m not there”
I stood there in silence, watching a 10 year old Elizabeth, a memory of a young girl trapped in a fragile aging body. I saw my great grandmother as child, i lived a moment of her past. And for a brief moment i smiled as i realized this. Before i could ask something else, she turned her gaze on me, glassy eyes by age.
“We must cook chicken tonight for everyone” she was back to her older self.
I realized why i wasn't sad for her passing. I lay down on my bed looking at the ceiling, and for that night i recollected that memory over and over again, until i fell asleep. I got to met Maruja as a child, and so i remember her always like that, not fragile and old. Every time i thought of her, i saw that shy good child scared of the thought of not begin there for when her father would pick her from school.
I knew her old, and i knew her young. Her name was Elizabeth, we called her Maruja.