What do you do when someone you love needs help that you can't give? When do you give up and say that it is enough? That you can't go on. That is someone else's turn to take a shot at the situation you're handling. When do you give in and give up?
Sometimes you can't even though every sensible thought in your mind is screaming at you that you don't have to do this and that someone else can do it.
Mika had that problem.
Her grandmother couldn't feed herself, dress herself, or even clean herself. It had been two days since she had gotten ill from a drug reaction, two months since she started really declining with her disease.
Mika sat in the guest room, crying. She was tired, worn out, hardly had any sleep, and was almost ready to snap in half. The stress of feeding and caring for a grown adult as if she were a child was almost too hard.
But not impossible.
She stared up at the ceiling, wiping tears from her eyes with the grubby palm of her hand. It wouldn't take much, she realized, for her to go ahead and call the paramedics to take her grandmother to the hospital. Surely there they could take care of her better than a nineteen year old full-time college student would ever be able to. After all, Mika had been juggling school and work, now her grandmother. She had quit her job to be able to help her grandmother, getting by on what her grandmother had in the bank and her own funds. She had enough to put dear Grandmere in the hospital and keep her comfortably there for a while. In fact, that wasn't such a bad idea.
No. She couldn't. This was Grandmere she was thinking about. The older woman that had held her when she was first born, that had helped raise her. Grandmere had taught her how to peel potatoes, when to tell when sweet potatoes were done, to wrap Christmas presents, make tea properly, tie her shoes, and to walk again after her leg was broken in a skating accident.
This was the same Grandmere that had taught her bible verses, sang her to sleep when she had nightmares, the one that had disciplined her orphaned granddaughter when she was disobedient, and yet made the best rolls in the world.
She couldn't do this. She wouldn't.
But then she heard the bell her grandmother had. It was a small little blue and white porcelain bell that you could find in most any dollar shop. Mika's uncle had given it to her as a joke and had remained a joke until Grandmere actually used it once.
Since then, it was Mika's little 'come hither' call. It worked wonderfully but every time she heard it Mika was afraid something was wrong. Deep down she knew that sooner rather than later, the bell would call Mika to her Grandmere's side and something would happen that was irrevocable.
This time, though, it wasn't an emergency. "You know," Grandmere began as Mika entered the room, "I am so glad you're here with me." She grinned at her granddaughter. Mika's eyes welled up. It had been a day full of scares for her, Grandmere hadn't recognized her for several hours but it seemed that she knew her. At least for the moment. "I'm sorry, darling. I don't want you here with me. You should be having fun, living your life."
Mika swallowed hard, guilt rushing in. She grinned for her grandmother. "It's alright. I like being with you." She stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame.
Grandmere shook her head. "I don't want you here, stuck inside the house like an old maid." She said firmly.
That was when Mika realized it was time. Grandmere knew it, Mika knew it, and neither of them wanted to have to say it. But there it was.
Mika sat down on the bed next to her grandmother, watching out for her Grandmere's drug-induced swollen limbs. She didn't want to give up, suddenly. She didn't want Grandmere to be taken to hospital and treated by nurses and doctors that only saw a patient in front of them.
They wouldn't see Grandmere for the wonderful- though sometimes vexing- woman that she had once been, had become, and was to this day. They would just see another old lady who was taking her time dying.
"Don't leave me." Mika pleaded inside her mind. "Don't go, not now! I still need you! You can't leave!" But instead she gently helped her grandmother sit up and let her lean her frail bent frame against Mika's own strong young frame. "Alright, Grandmere." Mika said, softly.
Her grandmother sighed in relief. "Thank you Mika."
"You're welcome." Mika whispered into her grandmother's hair as she held her. But what she really was saying was, "Thank you." They sat there until Grandmere was asleep again.
The next day Grandmere was gone. She had gone with the paramedics. She hadn't recognized Mika that morning. Alzheimers was a cruel disease. But Mika knew that somewhere inside her that Grandmere hadn't been rambling the night before. That Grandmere knew she wasn't well and that she needed to tell her granddaughter it was time.
Mika picked up her little apartment, getting rid of the excess things Grandmere had left behind and wouldn't be needing. All that was left was the cat. Grandmere's cat.
She sat on the bed, her tail curling around Mika's hand when she sat down next to the feline. The cat purred softly. Mika had a home all ready for her, she was leaving tomorrow with one of Mika's classmates. Mika stroked the cat with one hand, her thoughts far away.
Grandmere didn't have her memories anymore. She was simply a human that lived, breathed, ate, slept, and watched. But as Mika continued to pet the cat, she knew that the memories weren't gone. She knew them. She knew all of her Grandmere's favorite memories; she knew how her grandparents met, their first date, their wedding, the births of her father, uncles, and aunt, holidays, joys, sorrows, she even knew the name of her Grandmere's first boyfriend.
Mika wasn't alone, even though Grandmere was the last living relative Mika had left. With her were the shadows of her past, not haunting her as she had always assumed. Instead, the memories were part of her now.
And they always would be.