Monday, August 16, 2010

Talking About Grandma's Cooking Makes Me Think...

This is my Gram... a.k.a. one of the best cooks ever.  This picture of her is from her bday (the bday that my cousin and I took flowers from our Pop's garden to decorate her cake... don't think he was too happy about that).  This was also probably the last bday where she had her health.

My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's this past year, and I'm ashamed to say that I have not been dealing with it well at all.  Lots of people have tried to comfort me and have tried to remind me that she will have moments where she remembers us all and remembers how much she loves us and remembers everything.  People have tried to tell me that I need to cherish those moments and to cherish the memories. I am trying my very best to do just that, but it's hard.  It's hard because I know what's coming.

I know it's hard to imagine that I know what's coming, but in a way I do.  When I was in 6th grade my Grandpa died from Alzheimer's.  Much of my life was spent making weekly visits to the nursing home where he slowly deteriorated to the point that he didn't recognize us anymore, then he couldn't take care of himself anymore, then it was like he was a lifeless lump who existed but didn't. As a child I found it very hard to visit him in the nursing home.  I didn't like the way it smelled, I didn't like all the "old people", and most of all (as horrible as this sounds) I just didn't like seeing my Grandpa.  Sure I loved him very fact I do still love him... but it was just so hard to see him the way that he was.  It was painful to visit him and to know that the man who loved me so much no longer knew who I was an who pretty much didn't even know I was in the room when I was there.  There were times that I resented the fact that we had to go to the nursing home instead of being able to go other places and do fun things... especially in the summer.  When he died my biggest regret was that I hadn't treasured the moments I did get to spend with him and that I had resented him for making me spend part of my childhood visiting him in the nursing home.  To this day I still think that how I was with Grandpa when he got really sick is my biggest regret in life... and it pains me to know that there is really nothing that I can do about it.

With my grandma being sick, I'm afraid I'll make that same mistake again. The bf and I met up with the family to visit Gram for her bday on the 4th of July and going to see her in a nursing home was hard. When we first got to the nursing home all those familiar bad feelings came rushing back, but I knew I couldn't not see her.  I also knew that I didn't want to make the same mistake that I had with Grandpa, so I was going to go visit her no matter what.  This bday visit was the first time I had seen her since she had been flown up from FL to be back in NJ and was the first time I had seen her since she really started to deteriorate.  Needless to say, nothing... and I mean NOTHING could have prepared me for the person I saw in that room.  She looked so small, fragile, weak, and sick.  I'm not sure anyone besides the bf noticed it, but I almost started crying right then and there.  But I knew I had to hold it together because well this was our birthday celebration for her.  I couldn't let her see how upset I was... this was her special day.  I haven't been able to see her since her bday (studying for the bar exam pretty much consumed my life) and I have to say I'm kind of nervous about what the next visit will bring.  Yes I know what to expect, but I'm not sure I'm ready for another grandparent to go through this... it is really such a heartbreaking disease.

I know you probably thought this post was going to be about Grandma's Cooking, and her cooking is what made me start to think about all of this.  I've been obsessed with cooking since finishing the bar exam.  Last night the bf and I actually made some pretty good ham and cheese melts that I found a recipe for.  But what I really want to do is start making all of Gram's recipes that I have.  She was such a good cook and I loved cooking with her.  She had all kinds of cool gadgets and it was just always so much fun to cook with her or bake with her or to help out with whatever she was up to in the kitchen.  I have so many fond memories of waking up early when we were down at the shore to help her make a Bisquick coffee cake for breakfast... or the times that we made homemade bread together using the bread machine... or helping to make salads for dinner... or getting things together for the men to grill...going to Wegman's with her to do shopping... or to Delicious Orchards to get fruit for various things (like peach crunch... mmmm... my favorite).  It hurts to think that I'm never going to be able to do those things for her again.  But what I do know is that I'm going to keep on making her recipes to keep her alive in me.  I have those memories of me with her and nothing can take that away.  Cooking her dishes is going to be what keeps her alive in me long after she is gone.

I love you Gram!  And Grandpa, I miss you more than words and describe and can only hope that you are looking down on me from heaven and that you are proud of me.. I love you too!

PS,  Sorry for the depressing post, but sometimes you just need to get these things out.  Depressing as this post may have been, it definitely helped to make me feel better just thinking about Gram and my Grandpa!

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