That Looks Like Danita
By Danita Cahill
When I went to visit my Grandma Adelaide the summer of 1997, I didn’t know it would be our last visit.
My cousins Debbie and Linda were staying at Grandma’s house taking care of her – Grandpa had passed away a few years before. The day I visited, my cousins had helped Grandma get dressed and ready. Debbie assisted Grandma from her bedroom out into the living room to see me. Grandma was unsteady on her feet, but with Debbie’s help, Grandma made it to the couch. Debbie got her situated beside me.
“Why don’t you lay down Grandma?” Debbie suggested.
Grandma lay down and I sat beside her. Debbie told me Grandma would probably try to get up, but not to let her because she might fall. A woman from hospice was there. Linda and Debbie sat with the woman at the dining room table, talking quietly and crying as I sat with Grandma.
Grandma’s eyes were foggy and vacant. It pierced my heart when I realized she had no idea who I was. We had always been so close. Grandma sat up and gave me a little smile anyway, always the consummate hostess. I took her hand in mine. She didn’t object. We just sat there together, holding hands. I tried to make small talk, but the Grandma I’d always known and loved was absent that day. It was as if she’d already checked out of this world.
I stayed and visited with my cousins for a little while after the hospice volunteer left, Grandma still sitting beside me. Debbie said Grandma needed to get back to bed. She helped Grandma up off the couch and waited, her arm linked in Grandma’s to steady her. I said goodbye and prepared to leave.
It was a bright, sunny day out. I lifted my sunglasses off the top of my head and put them on. I guess there was something about those sunglasses that jogged Grandma’s memory. For a brief moment, the old Grandma I knew and loved looked at me, eyes alert. She turned back to Debbie and said, “That looks like Danita.”
My cousins and I all got a good chuckle out of that.
“That’s because it is Danita,” Debbie said, still smiling.
“Well I’ll be darned,” Grandma said. And her eyes once more fogged over and grew vacant. She’d checked back out.
I gave everyone hugs and headed out the door for my 45-minute drive back home. I cried most of the way. But the sad tears were mixed with almost happy tears. I felt depressed to think of losing Grandma – she loved me unconditionally. But I was thankful that she had recognized me, even briefly, to know that I loved her back, and that I was there for her – as she’d always been there for me.
Grandma died three days later. I wrote her eulogy.