Introduction

In 2005, my grandmother was diagnosed with dementia. For the next 4 years, I witnessed her transition from a once independent woman to someone that could no longer care for herself. As dementia took hold of her, she required 24-hour attention and was eventually moved into a nursing home.

During my visits with grandma, there was a sense of helplessness. She spoke a rare Chinese dialect that I was once fluent in, but had eventually lost due to the lack of practice. Communication between us was reduced to very basic conversations and gestures. Most of the time, I sat next to her listening to what she had to say.

Grandma listening to music on the iPhone

Grandma listening to music on the iPhone

Fast asleep with music still playing

Fast asleep with music still playing

Towards the latter part of her life, she was diagnosed with liver cancer. Her memory started to fade even faster. In an attempt to slow down the rate of her mental deterioration, I brought familiar artifacts such as family photos, Chinese newspapers, and meals that she use to enjoy prior to moving into the nursing home. With each item, her veil of forgetfulness had been temporarily lifted. She remembered my name; she remembered my brothers’ names; she even remembered how to count from one to ten in English.

As I reflect back on life with grandma, some of my fondest memories of her are tied to specific locations around her neighborhood in Queens. These various locations are like the artifacts that I used to bring to my grandma during my visits to the nursing home. They help to piece together enough of my past to help relive my experiences with her.

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