Each year, seniors and postgraduates at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2018-19 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
Grandmothers: everyone has them, but we do not all know who they are. Whether or not we are close to our grandmothers, they were an instrumental part in our lives, as none of us would be here without them.
I was always very close with my grandmother, Grandma Myrtle. We did everything together. My first cartoon episode of Tom & Jerry, my first game of cards, and my first night away from home all occurred with her. There was never a dull moment, from the countless sleepovers and parties to the hours spent with her at the park. Who knew that everything could spiral downward so rapidly?
At first everything was perfect, but as time progressed things deteriorated. The first time I spotted something peculiar was when Grandma Myrtle began to ask me repetitive questions. She would ask me where her phone was several times in the span of a few minutes. These odd occurrences became very frequent, but I figured they were just due to her advancing age. It was not until she blatantly began to forget important details like people’s names and places that I became worried. I questioned if what was happening was normal.
Then, to my astonishment, she confused my name with her own youngest child’s. The first time, I brushed it off. But when it started happening repeatedly, I was hurt and confused. It made me feel as if she did not love me. I pondered the idea that I was losing my grandmother. I was scared. Little did I know that there was so much more peril to come.
The situation became much worse. Grandma Myrtle began to misplace things. To her, the only logical explanation was that they were being stolen. She blamed my mother. Up to this point, my grandmother and mother had essentially been best friends. I did not understand. All I wanted was for my family to be happy, and that was just not possible any more.
I cried constantly in my room, wondering why my mother could never come with me to see my grandma. I vividly recall the hurtful remarks my grandma directed at my mom: “I hate you,” “I never want to look at you again.” To this day it is still heartbreaking and devastating to reflect upon. A bond that was once impenetrable was now broken. Who would have thought that misplacing a few items could have escalated to this? Two of the people I loved most were now enemies.
Over time, our lives went somewhat back to normal. We eventually discovered that my grandmother was suffering from a disease called Alzheimer’s, a progressive brain disease that causes problems with memory and behavior. While this explained my grandmother’s actions, it did not provide closure. I knew that things were going to get worse. Grandma Myrtle eventually forgot about the hatred she carried for my mother, and they became close again; my mother visited her nearly every day for the two years before her death. Even though the hatred was gone, however, Grandma Myrtle would never be the same. Her memory was shattered. She eventually began to shut down. Saddened by the fact that I was never going to be able to have the grandma that I grew up with again, I cherished every photo I could find of the two of us.
Through this roller coaster of emotions, I was able to learn a very valuable lesson: never take anything for granted. Life is short. In the blink of an eye, anything can be taken from you. Unpleasant events are bound to happen, but it is the reaction to that event that defines character. If I would have given in, and lost hope, hence forgetting the memories and great times we spent together, I would have never been able to enjoy the last moments I had with her before she passed. Perseverance through times of despair is instrumental, and I will be forever grateful for this lesson I have learned from my grandmother.