This weekly word art features a Dory quote from Finding Nemo. There is a rather personal story behind this piece. Before I get into it I want to let you know I’ve made a digital print of it available in my Etsy store.
Didn’t know I had an Etsy store? I’m sure you didn’t as it’s not been well advertised. TheSCLPaperie has been online for a few years featuring a few digital prints that’s I’ve made. There is also a series of muted photos taken at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I used them in M’s Modern Muggle Bedroom (a new updated, toddler version will be featured in a later post once the house gets done). Be sure to stop by and grab a copy of this sweet, little print available as an 11″x14″.
Now to My Story
My grandmother was an influential part of my life. From the day I came home from the hospital she has been there to help my parents raise me. She was the primary babysitter for the three of us while my parents worked and was like a second mom to me. Even as we grew older she still continued to come over and see us off to school, care for the dogs, and even take on a few chores. She was a sharp women who stayed up to date on current events, especially politics, and had no trouble telling you like it was. To use a more modern phrase: she was fierce.
In 2015 at the age of 83, Grams finally agreed to move in with my parents. She had lived in her own apartment for over 25 years (having been left by my grandfather before I was born), but was now starting to struggle to keep up maintaining the place. Less than month later I was woken at 5:30 in the morning to learn that she had suffered a stroke.
Quick Education Lesson on Strokes
Strokes are funny things. When most people think of a stroke they often think of a person losing function in a particular limb or struggling to talk, but that’s not always the case. As a hospitalist physician assistant I’ve seen strokes cause all sort of symptoms depending on the location in the brain, the type of stroke, and the severity. In my grandmother’s case she had been living with undiagnosed atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that often causes the blood to not properly cycle through the heart. It can lead to clot formation, and when a clot breaks off it can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. In her case, this type of clot shower caused a different pattern of symptoms: memory loss and cognitive function.
On top of that her MRI showed signs of previous small strokes, which over time results in vascular dementia. Without going into huge detail it’s sort like having heart disease in the brain. Blood vessels harden and become restricted, reducing blood flow causing a type waxing and waning dementia. Symptoms can sometimes vary even by the hour. You see it often with stroke patients.
Back to Grams
Grams was able to recover somewhat from the stroke. She returned home to stay with my parents and even attended my wedding two months later. She would go on to attend all of my siblings’ weddings and see two great grandchildren born in 2017.
Yet like all dementias, the disease causes the person to slowly slip away. Her care became more difficult and in 2016 we moved her to a rehab facility. When she attempted to wonder away in the cold this past January she was moved to their secure dementia unit. Memory loss and function started to slip away faster and in August she stopped eating. Grams usually attended Sunday Family Dinner with all of us. She was a child of the Great Depression and would always clean her plate out of habit. When she sat there staring at it blankly we knew we were reaching the end.
Grams passed away on September 1st of this year. It was M’s second birthday…and exactly four years from her stroke. We had brought Hospice care on board about three weeks prior and she passed away with her entire family surrounding her.
The Part Where Dory Comes In
Finding Nemo is one those movies everybody has seen. It’s got a sequel now, too. I’m sure you’re all familiar with supporting character Dory and her short term memory loss. She struggles sometimes to recall things that were just told to her. As we learn in the sequel, it’s what causes her to wander away from her family. At the climax of the movie the clownfish, Martin, tries to leave Dory and head home. She tells him how important he is and how she remembers things better when he’s with her.
“When I look at you… I’m home.”– Dory, Finding Nemo
On my last visit with Grams before her passing, I took M with me. We sat there in the small living space of the dementia unit, M clinging to me because of the many unfamiliar faces. Grams didn’t talk. She just stared at us with a smile that wasn’t hers. As we headed out we stopped by to see my other grandmother who’s staying on the rehab side of the facility. (She struggles with ambulation, but is still very sharp.) On our way out after that visit we passed Grams being wheeled down the hall to get weighed. As she rode past us she spotted M. She smiled at her, her familiar smile, and said to her “Hi Sweetie!”
It’s the last memory I have of her before she died. In all of the empty space that had taken over her memory, there was still this moment where she could look at M and find home.
When I set out to make this word art I remembered how even in this empty space you can be called back home; to family. I wanted to convey that with this piece. And as a result there is a large section of empty space in the middle. But eventually, you’re home. Dory is home. And she remembers what’s important.
I hope you all enjoy this simple work of art, whether you admire it as a farmhouse styled Pixar quote or the deeper meaning behind it. So many of us struggle with caring for family members with dementia and I hope this brings all of you a moment of peace.
One last brief aside… Her favorite flower, was the yellow rose.