I don’t know if this story belongs here, it is an ‘I don’t work here lady’ story of sorts but if you don’t think it belongs I understand if you wish to delete it. It all happened many years ago, we’re talking mid to late ‘80s, and it’s not a typical ‘I don’t here’ story. There’s no exploding Karen or any instant karma. Before I begin I should just say that as a child I was very close to my grandmother. Both my parents worked and when I got out of primary school I went to my grandparents’ house until my mother picked me up. I also stayed with my grandparents during the school holidays. My grandmother taught me the basics of cooking, gave me a love of literature and showed me the joy to be had from music. In about 1983 my grandparents emigrated to New Zealand, to live near their son, my mother (their daughter) sadly died in 1981, and I was well settled in secondary school by then so they felt making a move like that would be good for them. It was tough saying goodbye to my grandparents, I was very close to both of them but especially my grandmother.
Some years later, 1988 or there abouts, I had started university. Just before the end of my first year, my grandparents came back to the UK for a visit. They were staying with my dad, although he wasn’t their son, he thought of them as his parents. Before dad knew about their proposed visit he had decided to have some work done to his house, he wanted double glazing installed and some work on the roof done. So, when they arrived there was a lot of activity going on around the house.
About a week after my grandparents arrived back my college broke up for the summer vacation and I traveled back home. I was excited to see dad but I was really excited to see my grandparents again, it had been a few years since I last saw them. We’d exchanged letters but not seen each other since saying goodbye at the airport when they left for New Zealand.
I got a taxi from the railway station to my dad’s house and the first thing I saw when I got home was the building site that was the front of his house, complete with builders. I didn’t even need to open the front door, there wasn’t one, it was being replaced.
I left my backpack in the hall and went into the kitchen, my grandmother always liked being in the kitchen, the kitchen was her domain and was the place she felt most at home, the kitchen was also at the back of the house and was the farthest away from all the work at the front of the house, so I went straight there. I opened the kitchen door and just stood there, smiling, at my lovely, gentle, kind grandmother. She had aged so much but was still, unmistakably, my grandmother. My smile slowly disintegrated when I saw the reaction on my her face. It was a look of fear and anger, then she grabbed my grandfather’s hand and said “he’s coming in, why’s he coming in? Who does he think he is? Get out!” My grandmother, who I had seen everyday of my life for the first 15 years of my life, who I loved so much, didn’t even know who I was. She thought I was one of the builders and was terrified of me. The fear on her face broke me, ripped my heart in two.
That was both my very first ‘I don’t work here’ stories and also how I discovered my brilliant and loving grandmother was suffering from dementia.
Edit: thank you for the awards and all of your very kind comments. Some of your stories of your own loved ones’ experiences with dementia and Alzheimer’s have been heartbreaking, thank you all for sharing.