Grandma, you remain my light, even in your darkness.

I should preface this post with the fact that I am ill today and I should be asleep (or toughing it out at work, but then I would get everyone else sick and then they would hate me).  When I am ill, and especially when I have bronchial “distress” we’ll call it, I tend to not get all that lovely oxygen my brain so loves and it tends to start overreacting a little a lot.

Last night while my brain was oxygen hungry, I had a lot of dreams back-to-back in a rather “machine gun” kind of way.  One of those dreams (and one I wish brain had lingered on a while longer) was the night that Boyfriend and I went on our first date.

Now, I am not one to get all mushy (lies), but I would definitely relive that day over and over again.  It was the perfect day.  We were both incredibly nervous, both of us have social awkwardness (he hid his WAY better than I hid mine, in my opinion), and we both were so nervous, that we both almost cancelled.  Hahaha!  I texted him to tell him about the dream and we talked for a while about that night, how nervous we both were, and it was lovely to remember it again.  I told him that I kept making all those lame jokes because I wanted him to smile because from the first time I saw his smile, I was hooked on it.  That remains true today.

There are those people that can recall the exact moment that they fell for their significant other.  I can’t say that I have that moment of clarity, that “aha” moment, if you will… I don’t have that because I think I always loved him, even before I met him.  The best analogy that I can come up with is that if I were a jar full of rocks (not a stretch), he would be the water poured between those rocks.  I was a whole person before him, but he filled in those cracks and crevices (that we all have) to make me “wholer”, if that makes sense.

While we texted back and forth about all of this, it made me happy to remember it.  Very happy.  I was just about to lie my sick head down on a pillow to get some rest and the most random thought hit me.  I wondered if my grandma Shirley felt this way when she met my pappaps, John.  I have spent my entire life, and especially since her diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, hoping that I would someday find a love like theirs.


I have spent a lot of time in the playpen that I call a brain thinking about how horrible it must be for her… For him.  How does he look at her every day and remember those things that she just cannot?  Their first date… their wedding day… the day their first (and second through sixth) child was born… the grandbabies… the thought devastates me.  We often think of how frightening it must be for the person going through it, and I know we think about how terrible it is to be the caregiver of someone going through this, but I don’t think I have ever sat down and really itemized it before.  I have never thought about one specific memory that I couldn’t live without, and wondered what it would be like to lose that memory… or perhaps worse, to be the one that remembers when the other one can’t.


This photo remains, in my mind, the most meaningful photograph that I have ever shot, and I realize that I am completely biased because I know the back story.  She was, and remains to this day, his everything in this world.  If he is rocks, she is the water between them.  She is the sunlight that reflects off the water.  She is the breeze that ripples the water.  She is the wildlife that drinks the water.  She makes him wholer than he was before her, she is all of these things, and with a simple turn of events, she could be the ice that would break him.  It is beauty and tragedy all at once that is so poignant that just the mere thought of it makes my heart break… but the water fills in the cracks.


And now I’m crying… normally I love a good “grandma and grandpa love story” cry, but today I already can’t breathe and now I am crying.  Good job, dummy.


I know that I will have a love like theirs because they taught me how to love.  It’s that simple.  Even in her darkest time, she remains the light illuminating everything that I do, because she taught me.  Whenever I feel anxiety about anything, ever, all I have to do is remember this day, this post, this feeling, and know that I am doing exactly what she wanted me to do, because all she ever wanted for me was for me to live, just like she did.

John & Shirley_Easter_1956

John & Shirley Ingham_resto

John & Shirley_02

John & Shirley001

John Melissa & Shirley

(that’s me in 1981)

50th ann 2001

(not pictured here, their only boy out of their six kids, Mark)



I’d say she lived.  She lived beautifully.





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