My Ema

by N
(USA )

Ema was my dad's mom. We called her Ema because my older cousins couldn't say Grandma, and the name stuck. My dad's family isn't close, so we maybe saw Ema two to four times a year if we were lucky. My dad and his sister always told me that Ema was extremely creative when she was younger, she could sew dresses, crochet, and even decorated cakes for a business. I would have loved to meet this Ema. The Ema I knew all my life was succumbing to dementia. Ema never left the house, whether it was due to my aunt fearful of taking her places, or her own fears, I'll never know. I've seen her out of the house four times in my life.
The first time was when we were at her brother's house for his birthday. The second was when she was in the hospital for the first time I could remember when I was in elementary school. The third time was when we came over to stay at my house for a few days when my aunt went on vacation. The fourth time was when she was in the hospital last year. Because she was not involved with my childhood, I have no truly fond memories of Ema. She never came to any dance recitals, graduations, or birthdays and because of issues being able to go and visit her, I never spent a lot of time with her.
The memories I do have of her are asking me the same questions over again when I was younger, when she still knew who I was, and couldn't believe how big I had gotten. Ema was never a grandma in the traditional sense, but she was mine, and for that I will still love her. When she got worse, I'm not really sure she knew who I was anymore. I was uncomfortable with how much she had declined, and barely talked to her when she was in the hospital or at my house because I didn't know what to say or how to interact with her. This year she was declining a lot, and was in a nursing home. Recently, she had gotten pneumonia, but was on the mend despite having an infection afterwards. She had passed the swallow test and could be given food again. She seemed to be on the mend. But she died today. I knew it was coming; she was old and frail and was getting sick a lot. But it still doesn't seem real. The last time I saw her was around Easter. I wish I had been closer to Ema so I could have good memories of the times spent with her and to be able to miss her. I feel sad but I don't miss her, and I'm not sure what I should be doing or how to react. I feel more sad over the fact my dad and his siblings are technically orphans now.
The last two years of her life, Ema had a hard time getting around, had a hard time controlling her body,had a hard time eating because she lost her teeth, had a difficult time breathing because she smoked most of her life, had no idea who anyone was, and was getting sick. She needed a lot of care and could not be left alone. She was always cheerful though despite this, and always happy to see whoever visited her.
I can take solace in the fact that she's in a better place now. She doesn't need anyone's help to move now, she can do whatever she wants, eat whatever she wants, and has control of her body again. She can remember again, and she's with her husband, her brother, and all her family that's passed before. She's in a better place; she's finally free of the body that has been holding her back for so many years. Alas my poor Ema, I knew her not but I love her still.

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