I really wish I would have started to journal about my most favorite grandparent long before now, but here is where I start...
My Nana's name is Berneice Berdie Schaeffer Smith. She was born on a small farm outside of Davenport Iowa to two wonderful people that I was lucky enough to meet; My Great Grandparents, Louis Schaeffer and Berdie Hutchinson Schaeffer. Great Grandpa Louis would eat everything off of your plate if you didn't finish eating your food. My mom remembers how he would eat the frosting from the kid's cupcakes if they only wanted the cake. Being a poor and humble farmer, I am sure he didn't want to see anything thrown away. Great Grandpa also had a nub for a finger. He cut his finger off with a saw once while cutting down a tree. I was always fascinated with that missing finger. Poor Grandpa had to endure many questions about the where-abouts of his finger. My Great Grandma Berdie was a short, broad, Irish looking lady. When she laughed... oh when she laughed it just made the room light up. She used to come at me with her fingers wriggling away, hunched over and announcing "I am going to tickle you". I can see that image in my mind. I remember I was fascinated by her... something about her. She passed when I was two, but I remember her so distinctively. Her spirit left an imprint on my soul. Both of Nana's parents live forever in my heart and in my mind. The smell of their home, the treats from their candy stash, their devotion to family and their love for me... I'll never forget any of it. It's only appropriate that such awesome people raised such an awesome grandma.... My Nana. Nana was a "rock" in my mom's family. She was the glue that held us together... That fact is more apparent now than it ever was. Nana is a strong woman who raised five girls on her own... she did it... and she did it all. My mom is the oldest of her siblings and through her I see so many of the wonderful characteristics that my Nana bestows.
Yesterday I called my Nana... As of now she resides in a place called Brighton Gardens in St. Charles Illinois. However, her real home is in the Quad Cities (four cities nestled along the banks of the Mississippi River). This was my home at one point in my life and it is where most of my Nana's family currently lives. Without indulging into too much detail (maybe I'll save it for another post)... My Nana is under the control of one of her children that chose to legally take over her care with no interest in the emotional and obvious interests of her sisters (the remainder of Nana's children). It's really such a sad situation and one that has divided this family into many pieces.
Now that I touched on that... Back to my phone call...
Nana: "Hello... Malorie?"
"No Nana, this Amber... Jeri's daughter."
Nana: "Oh Amber... Hi... How are you?"
"I'm good Nana... How are you?"
Talking proceeds, but not with me... probably with someone sitting next to her. Often times my Nana will forget that she is on the phone with someone and start to talk to those around her.
Me: "Nana... Nana...?"
Me: "Well I wanted to tell you that I was thinking about becoming a photographer"
"Oh really? You would be good at that Jeri... This is Jeri, right?"
Me: "It's Amber, but I wanted to tell you that I thought about you when I made this decision because you have instilled the love of photography in my mom and that has passed on to me"
"I don't have a camera. I used to, but not anymore"
Me: "I know Nana, but remember how you use to always try to take modeling pictures of me, Alisa and Brianna?"
"Yeah, I do remember"
Me: "Well I was hoping to name my business after you and my mom in some way (Nana is now talking to someone else, but I continue)... Like maybe use Berdie in the name or..." I finally give up on the subject.
I try to tell my Nana about my idea a couple more times and then I realize that she is not as focused today. I also realize that I may never get the response that I know she would have given me if she didn't have dementia. It made me sad. I was hurt at her lack of enthusiasm even though I knew it wasn't her fault.
...but, Nana said something that resonated with me. Before I let her go during that phone call I said "Nana, I love you and I miss you very much" and she replied "I love you too Amber... You know I do". It was like a moment of clarity came upon her when my words hit her ears. It was like she was thinking "I have family that loves me, I need to let them know that I am still here and that despite my inability to always remember their names, they need to know that I still love them... I'm inside of this illness.. somewhere... I am still here".