Beautiful Uncertainty

August 28, 2010
When I was younger, I idolized my grandmother. “YiaYia”, I called her, butchering the Greek word. I remember listening in rapture to her stories of puppet shows in bomb shelters, or ice cream shops and handsome soldiers. She was the bravest, most intelligent person I knew. My YiaYia is the type of person who grew stronger in the face of suffering- or at least she was.

Sometimes she confused my name with my cousin’s name. That’s normal, I thought. Once she forgot where she was, but we all get lost sometimes. She lost her ability to speak proper English, but I figured it was because she never got a formal education. Her bottomless well of stories seemed to dry up, but I was too old for children’s stories anyway. But when she started screaming at the German soldiers no one else saw, I knew I was out of excuses. I cried as imaginary bombs blew up the building around me.

Sometimes when we visit her everything is like it was before. She tells me more stories and shows me the new shoes she bought. She has bad days too, so bad that she doesn’t remember us. We never know what to expect when we visit her. I never know if I will return home content or traumatized; but I will never stop visiting her. I have become completely vulnerable to the whims of her Alzheimer’s.

In experiencing the pain and uncertainty of my Grandmother’s condition, I grew from an innocent child to a tormented young adult. My childish utopia of simple happiness was hinged on the belief that all circumstances were consequences of an individual’s actions. I thought that as long as I was well behaved, my life would be simple and joyful. Each visit to my Grandmother’s house created a new crack in this shallow belief until eventually the glass utopia shattered. I was forced to face the belief that I was not- and never will be- in complete control of my life. I cannot predict what the next day will bring. Fear and suffering are a constant part of my life, but so too are love and happiness. The two extremes will mix and blend and fill my life with a beautiful uncertainty.

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