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My family’s Christmas Eve party photo from this Christmas. Everyone was able to attend this year.

‘I feel sad looking at her sometimes’

Jan 25, 2023

She used to give me kisses on my forehead before I went to sleep. I still remember dancing along with her to the melody of Yayo’s piano, and loving every second of it. I didn’t know back then that these moments would be short lived.

It was 2016 when my family first got news of my grandmother’s illness. Dementia. Similar to Alzheimer’s, dementia works on impairing two brain functions: Memory loss and judgment. This affected my grandmother, Yaya, little at first. It started with her forgetting how to lock the door or turn off the stove.

Two years after her diagnosis, she gradually began to lose her balance. She would trip and stumble around, yet keep getting up and sitting down. Many times she would look for my grandfather around the house when he went out. I usually sat with her in the living room, making sure she wouldn’t fall again.

Yaya’s caretaker dresses her up for any fancy family dinners or parties. Since we can’t take her out to dinner anymore, we do more dinners at home now. (Marina Martinez)

Then she got worse. She wasn’t able to cook. She used to stumble on the floor, and wonder where my grandfather was when he had left for lunch.

Then there was the biggest sign leading to her diagnosis. My mom told me the story when I got home from school. Yaya and Yayo drove in two separate cars after leaving the car mechanic, my grandfather preferred going on the freeway while my grandmother preferred the normal roads. When my grandfather got home, Yaya wasn’t there. After waiting about 15 minutes, he called her. But her phone was dead. Eventually, after 45 minutes, while my mother and uncle went looking for her, she arrived home. She was disoriented and went the wrong direction. Yaya stopped driving after that.

She would then sometimes try to leave the house. She would open the door, walk around the street and then she would lose her sense of direction. My parents and her former caretaker would find her after a few minutes, and Yaya didn’t know what had happened. That’s when they put locks on the doors.

It’s been around six years since then. Now, she can’t walk at all. The doors don’t need the locks anymore. She is bedridden and has a new lady who takes care of her when my grandfather can’t. She can’t talk to us anymore. It hurts. Seeing such a loving person, that has been such a big part of my life, leave.

I will never forget my Yaya’s cooking and special meals. My favorite was her Taco Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. She would always enjoy getting together with old friends to make family dinners. My memorable dish though was the Pan De Jamón. While I personally don’t like the original because of the olives, she would always make a ham only version for me.

She would usually take care of me when my parents went out to eat. I loved playing games with her, especially hide and seek. We would dance to the song Mamma Mia from her favorite musical “Mamma Mia!”we watched it a lot together.

I remember her and Yayo (my grandfather) starting our spring break ski trips. While they eventually stopped coming, I still remember the first time we went to Snowmass in Aspen, Colorado. It’s where we usually go to ski now, and it was the first time I saw snow. I built a snowman with my dad, learned to ski and watched snow fall. Now, the most memorable thing about the experience is how much I remember Yaya smiling.

My grandfather loves Yaya very much. This September will be my grandparents 57th wedding anniversary.

My Yaya had three children: my mother Marina, my aunt Patricia, and my uncle Alberto Luis. My parents and I live quite close to Yayo and Yaya. My mother is the eldest. She cares for Yaya very dearly, making sure to visit every day she can.

My parents and I used to live with my grandparents when we first moved to Houston. We have our own house now, but we try to visit them often.

I feel sad looking at her sometimes.

I didn’t really understand what was happening to her when I was a child. I remember my mom trying to simply explain it to me by saying that she was turning into a child again. I wouldn’t know until a few years later that her brain was turning off. I promised that if my parents or grandfather ever needed me to look after her, I would do it. Anything to spend more time with her.

I miss her though. I miss making her a huge special Mother’s Day breakfast. I miss putting streamers everywhere for the smallest parties. I miss helping her with the dishes. I miss putting on small spa parties for her. I miss making her laugh.

Preparing for loss is hard. It’s harder though, when they leave faster than expected. Especially like this.

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  • H

    HumbertoJan 27, 2023 at 6:16 am

    Amazing way to share such a story… strength and love to you all. Also, please keep on writing… the world is in need of it.

  • P

    PatriciaJan 26, 2023 at 8:11 pm

    Loved the story Marina, made me tear up, brought back many memories. Very sad what has happened to Yaya.

  • Y

    YayoJan 26, 2023 at 6:59 pm

    That is an absolutely wonderful real life story. Congratulations on a very good prose and the way you describe the sad story of Yaya. You have done a fantastic job. I love you, Yayo

  • E

    ella sotiriadesJan 26, 2023 at 12:41 pm

    a really, really well written story. i’m very proud of you for talking about this my friend <3