Michelle pulled her nightgown over her head and smoothed out the wrinkles. She crawled quietly into her bed careful not to wake her little sister. She laid her hand over her eyes and began to pray, “Please G-d, let me be safe and watch over Grandma tomorrow. Don’t let her steal anything else.” She then turned over and fell asleep exhausted.
The warm sun beamed in through the window waking Michelle from her restless night. She rolled over and peeked through one eye at the alarm clock - 5:50 as she watched it quickly blink from fifty to fifty one. This was going to be a long day.
“Up yet, Mishy?” called a voice thirty minutes later. Her mom’s footsteps followed up the stairs. “Yeah, Mom, I’m up. I’m up. Be down in a few, okay?” Michelle hated her mother entering her room. It was bad enough that she had to share it with an 8 year old now that she was in junior high. Having her mother in there unnecessarily invading her privacy even more, was too much to handle.
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Over breakfast Michelle’s mind wandered. Had last night really happened? Do I tell Mom and Dad?
“Mishy, did you do all of your homework last night?” Mom asked.
“Um…yeah. I just left one vocab sheet for my free period today. Otherwise, I’m good. And um, where’s Grandma? She awake yet?”
“Nope. She’s out like a light. You two must have had some party at the grocery store!”
Mom didn’t know the half of it. Michelle needed to rush to school and tell Britt exactly what happened. She’d know what to do. Britt was always the go-to girl for every problem. Besides, her mom was a shrink and if Britt couldn’t help maybe she could ask her mom what to do.
Michelle waited until her free to tap Britt on the shoulder. Britt’s red hair flung around. “Hey! What’s up? Where you been all week, I wanted to show you this awesome new outfit my mom bought at her conference in New York! It’s totally East Coasty.”
Michelle just smiled nervously. “I, um, really need to talk to you, like in private.” Britt gave her serious face and got up to walk to their spot in the girl’s bathroom. “So, what’s up? Why the serious talk?” Britt asked. Michelle played nervously with the zipper on her hoodie and began her story.
“So, last night something really weird happened. I went with my Grandma to the grocery store. We were getting ice cream and some stuff for a little spa night. We were putting stuff into the cart and I look over and see my Grandmother, my 78 year old Grandmother, putting lipstick and mascara and then some chips into her purse. She’s like totally stealing it!” It felt good to get it all out.
“Wait, so she stole chips? Why would she take that? I mean, I get the makeup, but chips?!” Britt looked confused.
“Who cares what she took Britt. Point is, she took it. I’m totally freaking out. Do I tell my parents? She’s been acting seriously weird lately. She’s walking all the time, talking to herself and now stealing!” She started to well up with tears. Britt hugged her, “You know, you have to tell your parents.” she whispered. “I know.”
On the bus ride home from school, Michelle prepped in her head the entire conversation to be. Nervously, she entered her parents’ bedroom to spill the goods on Grandma. Her mom was sitting at her desk typing on the computer. Her Dad was engrossed in CSI on the flat screen. “Um, guys, can I talk to you about something?” They both stopped and looked at her. Instantly the tears came and so did the story about Grandma. Immediately Michelle felt better about not having to keep the secret. Her parents looked each other in the eye and her mother began to speak.
“Oh honey, we thought we’d spare you the worry. Grandma has been ill for some time with something called Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a disease many older people get that affects their brains and memory. Sometimes it makes them do funny things, like steal chips and makeup. But, one thing we know is that Grandma doesn’t feel any pain at all and that there is medication that can help slow this whole thing down a bit.”
Michelle breathed a huge sigh and wiped her tears. Alzheimer’s disease… She had heard of that once in Science class. “Wait; will she forget who I am?”
“Maybe, eventually, but, she will always remember you in her heart. Plus, this medicine will help keep her remembering for much longer.”
Michelle and her parents talked for a very long time that night about what steps they would take to keep Grandma safe. She felt relieved that her grandmother wasn’t a thief and sad at what was happening to her memory.
The next morning at breakfast Michelle asked her Grandma to create a memory book. Together they would put together a daily written celebration of something the two of them remembered together – stories of how her grandparents met, stories about Michelle’s mom and her aunt, even favorite stories about when Grandma was a girl in junior high. Michelle was excited to make the most of every day that her Grandma was there with her and create a way to keep Grandma’s memories alive forever.