Allergies to Red And Other Hazards of Aging

This past week my ex-husband’s grandmother passed away. My initial emotional response was sadness, of course, but there were layers to this sadness related to my divorce as well. It is a strange thing to be part of a family and then removed from that family. Divorce sends ripples through your life, and even though the initial impact lessens with time, small bumps occur every now and then, although they become fewer and farther between. I hadn’t seen Grandma Betty in almost 10 years, after seeing her at least once every few months for 8 years before that. She is my children’s great-grandmother, whom they’ve continued to celebrate holidays with and visit on their weekends with their Dad.

My daughter has a picture in her room from her one-year birthday celebration, surrounded by almost four complete sets of great-grandparents. Looking at that picture now, 13 years later, only 3 individuals remain. My son has had to attend two great-grandparent funerals in the past 2 months, and at 11 years old this is a heavy sorrow to bear- a first exposure to the mortality of loved ones.

I could have attended the funeral, after the divorce we have managed to remain on good terms, but it is still awkward and my presence would cause more of a disruption than be appreciated. So, I sent my condolences with a plant and made sure the kids were dressed and ready on their grandparents’ doorstep this morning before the funeral. I will say my goodbye in my heart, and feel slightly guilty that I haven’t seen her since the divorce.

After school on the day I learned their great-grandmother had passed away, I told my son and daughter, and I asked if she had been ill, if this was something they had been expecting. My daughter told me, no, she hadn’t particularly been ill, but she had been in a nursing home and insisted that she was allergic to many things. I remembered her having several food allergies from when I knew her, but when I mentioned this Jenna continued, “No, Mom, she insisted she was allergic to red, like the color. Grandma had to get rid of all her red clothes because she said they made her itchy.”

As I get older and become personally familiarized with age-related dementia through friend’s grandparents, co-workers parents, but luckily not first-hand yet, I realize that this is a common affliction as a person lives past their 80’s. My ex-husband’s other grandmother also had dementia. She believed that she was on a cruise ship while she was in a nursing home. I can only hope that if my brain deteriorates I will imagine myself in the most pleasant situation and enjoy my last days, and if I become allergic to the color red, hopefully my loved ones will be able to enjoy the humor of the situation in the midst of the pain, and lovingly remove all the red clothes from my closet, the way great-grandma Betty’s daughter-in-law did.

How often have I thought things or done things that would already be considered a little crazy if anyone knew about them? I guess one day I’ll lose my filter and the crazy will be on display, and maybe people who I’d thought had forgotten about me will still remember me fondly.

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