She exists in two worlds -- the reality that we all know and the reality that her mind creates.
Some days, she'll look me straight in the eyes and tell me about how she's exhausted from running here or there for a husband who has been gone for years.
Looking at Gram in her wheelchair -- where I know she's been all day, all week, all year- - I can see the confusion-filled cloud of dementia that hangs over so many that live in the home.
But lately, she's slipped past the frustrated stage into one of simple contentment most days.
Sometimes she's with us and sometimes she's lost in that world of her own, but the fear of those two worlds colliding seems to have lessened a bit.
This past year it's been really hard. While there are moments of tenderness and heart-breaking hilarity, continuing to visit and watch mental and physical deterioration -- and being powerless to change any of it -- isn't easy to do.
It's no longer the way that it was.
She doesn't understand watching baseball anymore, so our biggest shared interest is gone. And at times, I don't want to clean up the room or stop in and find that she's still sleeping, blinds closed and room dark in the middle of a sunny summer day.
But recently, an aide commented to me, "It nice that you still come and visit so much. So many families just disappear."
I hate to admit it, but I know exactly how those people feel. Most times I just don't want to go.
Maybe it's fear. Maybe it's knowing that she is safe and in capable hands without me doing the work. Maybe it's the difficulty in seeing a person you love with your heart and not just your eyes fade into the gathering darkness.
It's hard when she's not the person that she used to be, and in a way she exists in two worlds for me -- the reality that we all know and the reality my mind creates, the way I want to remember she was.
But if being on the outside is rough, being on the inside must be harder, even if her recognition of this has passed, too. We all have times that we feel alone or fear that somehow we'll be forgotten simply because we've changed in a way that others find hard to accept.
But while it's not always fun and it's not always easy, it's also not all about me.
So I go to make sure she's comfortable, to selfishly lessen my guilt, to connect her two worlds when I can and make sure she knows that I'm there -- wherever her "there" is on that day.
I go because this is our reality now.
I go because deep down she's still the same Gram.
I go because love doesn't just disappear, and because she hasn't either, neither will I.
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