Monday, December 28, 2009

Bad news

Haven't updated in a while. Been busy at work preparing for Christmas & post-Christmas sales. Also came down with a wicked stomach flu a few weeks back and missed Andrea's grad school graduation and didn't get to hang out with Matt's family a whole lot while they visited. But I did get to spend a Saturday with them exchanging gifts, and I recovered in time to spend Christmas Day with my family.

It wasn't the best Christmas. I'm not complaining about gifts or anything like that. If anything, Matt's mom & my family were too generous. I got a Kitchen Aid Architect Stand Mixer, a Wii Fit Plus with balance board, a new down comforter, the first Glee cd, several volumes of the Fruits Basket manga, several novels by Octavia Butler (one of my favorite authors), and other various goodies.

Matt & I woke up & did our little gift exchange at home. Mom called to see if we were heading over to their house to exchange gifts. She was worried that the weather would be bad, so we said we'd be over earlier than later. When we got there, Mom, Dad, and Adam were packing up some food to take over to Gram & Pa. I asked why they were taking them a meal, and Mom said that she was worried that if the weather got bad, they wouldn't be able to go out for a meal, and that Gram "doesn't cook anymore." That struck me as odd. Was Gram sick? "Why doesn't she cook?" I asked, but Mom changed the subject. We loaded up the Kia and headed to Gram's.

We greeted my grandparents and Adam gave them the meal he'd prepared for them - ham, green beans, and browned potatoes. We stayed for a few minutes, talking about the Christmas Eve party at my Uncle Glenn's that I had missed (thanks, work!) the night before. Nothing seemed wholly unusual, so when we got back into the Kia to head home, I asked again. "Why doesn't Gram cook anymore?"

Mom sighed. "Your grandfather has been doing a lot of the things that Gram usually does lately. When I asked him about it, he let it slip that your grandmother's doctor believes that she's showing the first signs of Alzheimer's."


It's not completely out of the blue. We've noticed a change in my Gram. She's been getting thinner and quieter, like she's fading away. She used to be so chatty, always holding court and being a bit of a smartass, to be honest. I'm not exaggerating when I describe our family as close-knit, and when I say we gather every Sunday at Gram's just to hang out, I mean that we gather every single Sunday. It may not be everyone every week, but you can find at least half the family there. But now, when there's a large group around, she seems almost overwhelmed, and doesn't play the hostess anymore. She doesn't even participate in conversations like she normally would.

My mother noticed this change, and mentioned it to her sisters. They didn't even want to think about it being Alzheimer's. They offered alternative diagnoses, thinking it might be linked to all the different medications Gram takes. But Mom pushed Pa to talk to Gram's doctor about it.

I guess he finally did. It couldn't have been easy for him. And so far, Mom's the only one he's told. She's trying to convince him that everyone needs to know, all of Gram's siblings and his siblings and so forth. He's apparently been doing everything and trying to hide the fact that he's doing it.

As for me, I can't stop crying when I think about it. I love my Gram. The thought that one day, she won't know me anymore, or my mother, or my Pa, or anyone... it fucking terrifies me. The disease itself terrifies me. And when I think of my Gram forgetting how to do things for herself, even forgetting who she is... all I can do is cry.

So that's what I've been up to lately. My Cannonball Read has fallen by the wayside as I try to get caught back up in my wedding planning and as I deal with this news. I just don't know what to do. Matt and I were talking about it the other day. I was telling him stories, different memories I have of the times I've spent with Gram. He told me that, if nothing else, I should be happy that I have all those memories. He never knew his grandfather, and his grandmother was ill by the time he was adopted. I am truly thankful for those memories, and for her, but I don't want to lose them, or her.

Gah. I'm a mess right now as I sit here typing. But I needed to let it out.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Book 7: Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner is an author whose novels have unfortunately been categorized as chick lit. When I hear a book described as "chick lit," I tend to avoid reading it. Chick lit to me means a story about a pretty girl who is successful in every way except one - she can't find Mr. Right, and the entire book revolves around her pursuit of her dream man. Usually, she meets someone, hates him, then comes to love him. Or, she's rescued in some way by him. Chick lit is fluff, and while it can be a fun distraction, it doesn't usually stick with you when you've finished reading.

But Ms. Weiner's novels transcend that label. Her characters are fully-fleshed out, real women who have cushioning on their hips, brains between their ears, and do not require a man to rescue them. They deal with real problems, beyond finding a good sale or finding Mr. Right. The protagonist of her latest novel, "Best Friends Forever," Addie Downs, is trying to deal with the reappearance of a long lost friend after 15 years... under auspicious circumstances.

Addie is a greeting card artist who lives alone in her childhood home. She works from home by day, and spends her nights visiting her brother Jon, who lives in an assisted-living community. She rarely ventures out except to shop or go to the gym. On the night of her 15 year high school reunion, she is at home when there is a knock on her door. It is Valerie Adler, her old best friend, whom she hasn't seen in 15 years. Valerie is in trouble and asks for Addie's help. But Addie isn't thrilled to see Valerie, thanks to an incident that occured their senior year. However, Addie finds herself helping Valerie, and soon they are on the road, trying to avoid getting caught for an accident that Valerie committed that may have left another fellow classmate, Dan Swansea, injured or even dead.

The book flips back and forth between Addie's narration, a third-person narration of a detective's involvement in the case, and the description of what happens to Dan Swansea. It's interesting that Ms. Weiner chose three different ways to tell the tale from different perspectives, rather than sticking to Addie's voice. The story unfolds quickly, and Addie sheds light on how she and Valerie first met, to how they grew apart, to the fateful incident that completely tore their friendship apart, and sent Addie down the path to becoming a 350+ lb. shut-in by her early 20s. Ms. Weiner describes Addie so well that you can't help but understand and ultimately empathize with her.

My only quibble with the book is that the ending is rather anticlimatic. There's a buildup that sorta peters out in the end. Of course, the book isn't a thriller or crime novel, but I still expected more of a showdown between Dan and Valerie and Addie. But I recommend the novel, especially if you're looking for something a little more substantial than chick lit.