Tusitala Short Story: Nana
There are many reasons why a person may change, from environmental reasons to psychological reasons. For my grandma it was the incurable disease known as Alzheimer's. This disease causes her brain to shrink, taking away her memories, personality, and basic motor skills.
My grandma was born on Boxing Day of 1945 coincidentally the year WW2 ended. Her birth island was Savai'i in the small village of Samauga. At the age I am now her father passed away and she was sent to live with her spinster aunty in Upolu. She began to work alongside this stern woman at the well-established Burns Philp Building. In 1962 she was being sent to New Zealand to work and support her siblings, however she delayed her travels as she begged her aunty to stay in Samoa so that she could celebrate her country’s independence. To this day she proudly boasts about that glorious celebration.
Fast forward 50 years, my grandma and I were like two peas in a pod. Our everyday adventures consisted of visits to the local library, the public playground and fresh pastries to end...we don’t do those things anymore. She started to go downhill shortly after my 8th birthday.
I didn’t understand it when I was younger. Why she couldn’t remember simple everyday things or why she was suddenly filled with memories of events that never occurred. At first I felt confused , so I responded with anger. Yelling at her over her false memory of a trip to Europe was a common occurrence in my primary school years. Silently resenting her over the embarrassment that came with the car seat she brought for me well after I turned 10. I didn’t know that in her mind I was still a meek little 5 year old girl.
The libraries she would read with me in now a place she’ll never visit again as the ability to read has left her. The peaceful walks we’d go on now a thing of the past as her form of transportation has been reduced to a wheelchair. The letters she’d write me now meaningless scribbles. Even our heartfelt conversations have become a repetitive loop of what remains of her mental vocabulary.
Now, it pains me to even hold a conversation with her as I know the woman I’m speaking to is only the remains of what used to be my grandmother. Her hair as gray and faded as the memories she has of us together. The one thing she continues to hold onto is the knowledge of me being familiar, sometimes I’m her granddaughter, other times a close friend or companion.
Stories of the first few days of an independent Samoa are no longer a common occurrence. However, her intricate descriptions of the Savai'ian churches and the Apia town area in the 20th century remain engraved into my memory.
Her once independent personality has since been replaced by a constant state of confusion and distress. Yet there are still rare moments when a flash of her old self shows, and I have learnt to cherish those moments. Although my grandma has completely changed, I have adapted myself to love this version of her.
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