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Long Way Gone

We walked down the damp, dark hallway of her apartment building, years ago. I remember crowding into the tiny elevator that would take us back to the ground level when it stopped a few stories down and a man of about 30 years of age sauntered inside. My grandmother glared at him until the doors slowly opened and he walked outside.
“Whenever someone walks into an elevator, automatically put ‘KILL’ in your mind,” she whispered to us, pointing to the center of her forehead. We just chuckled at her off-the-wall advice, I mean, wasn’t that a little extreme? No. It wasn’t, to her. It was real. It was how to survive. It was her suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
Paranoid schizophrenia is a disease that causes the patient to suffer extreme hallucinations and delusions of persecution or conspiracy. As a child, I never really understood the extent of her illness. I heard all about the stories when she had an episode when she picked up a knife to fend herself from the devil (my aunt) or when she loaded my dad and all my aunts and uncles into her car and drove cross-country because she thought the world was ending. But, I could never see it. She was just Grandma.
But, soon enough, I started seeing the changes. My birthday cards stopped being addressed to me but to ancient Egyptian ruler, Neferu III (Neferu I and II were my mother and my sister). Her new delusion; my new nickname.
Last year, my grandmother was diagnosed with dementia, a disease that causes mental deterioration of brain cells and brain function. My father had to go to her apartment every day heavily armed with her medication for schizophrenia and dementia. For a while, it was manageable. Then, the calls started. Ring! Ring! Ring!
“ Hello,” I answered.
“ Hi, this is your grandma.”
“ Hi, Grandma. How are you”
” I’m good. Is your dad home?”
“ No, he’s not here”
“ Okay, tell him I called.”
After this conversation, she would call about 15 minutes later and we would literally rehash word for word the exact same aforementioned conversation. But, that wasn’t all. She would call up to six times a day. Most of these calls either took place in the evening or extremely late at night. Because of her newly developed disorder, she soon had to be admitted to a nursing home. The calls, however, didn’t stop…
“ Hello,” I answered.
“ Hello, this is your grandma.”
“ Hi, Grandma.”
“Is your dad home?”
“ No, he’s not here right now.”
“ Okay, well tell him his mother called and that I am in a nursing home.”

I distinctly remember the last time I visited her. As my father and I stood in another damp, dark elevator, my heart anxiously raced. Once we rounded the corner to the doorpost, her eyes met mine and after a moment, they softened with recognition. She knew me.

As I hesitantly sat on her small bed that was thrust in the corner of her even smaller room, we talked for a while. She was fine but sorrowfully explained that her sapphire ring that she wore on her left ring finger had gotten stolen. As we talked for a while, “Here,” she said to me, “ try this crossword puzzle”. Crossword puzzles were always her favorite. As I sat diligently, trying to find names of Japanese cities in a jumble of black letters, her nurse walked in with a little cart with her dinner plate on it. As she reached for her milk carton with her left hand, she leaned over and said, “ Did you know my ring had gotten stolen.” Not wanting to look into her innocent eyes, I never looked up. I just said, “ I know, Grandma. I know.”
After a long time in her room, my dad and I finally found our way home. Ring, ring, ring! Ring, ring, ring! My dad’s phone beeped, loudly. As he answered his phone, his face slumped into a sorrowful frown. As my eyes welled, I knew I didn’t have to hear who it was or what he/she said. Of course, it was her. She was asking when we were going to visit her again because she hadn’t seen us in a long time…





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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

ThisLitIsBananas This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 11, 2010 at 5:47 pm
I'm so sorry about your grandmother. My grandmother has leukemia, and my great-grandmother has Alzheimer's, which I think might be either a kind of dementia, or very similar. She forgets my dad has kids all the time, so she doesn't know me sometimes. It's very sad. This was a good article - I rated it five stars.
 
RenaissanceMan said...
May 11, 2010 at 3:00 pm
You are awesome!
 
DanceAwayThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 8, 2010 at 3:25 pm
Wow. This story was really interesting. I'm sorry about your grandma. Good writing, though. 5 stars. 
 
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