Sunday 24 August 2014


I remember this place.
I remember her in this place.
Sometimes, she was happy.
She'd say "So and so said such and such..."
or "somebody said this and that..."
She'd talk about who knows what,
and one moment you'd be here,
and the next it's 40 years later.
So, you just sit here and bounce around the years with her.

Is it all in that pretty little head of yours?
What goes on in that place in the dark?
Well, I used to know a girl and I could have sworn
That her name was Veronica

Well, she used to have a carefree mind of her own
And a delicate look in her eye
These days I'm afraid she's not even sure
If her name is Veronica 

Do you suppose that waiting hands on eyes
Veronica has gone to hide?
And all the time she laughs at those
Who shout her name and steal her clothes
Veronica, Veronica

Did the days drag by? Did the favors wane?
Did he roam down the town all the while?
Will you wake from your dream, with a wolf at the door
Reaching out for Veronica?

Well, it was all of sixty-five years ago
When the world was the street where she lived
And a young man sailed on a ship in the sea
With a picture of Veronica

On the 'Empress of India'
And as she closed her eyes upon the world
And picked upon the bones of last weeks news
She spoke his name out loud again

Veronica sits in her favorite chair
She sits very quiet and still
And they call her a name that they never get right
And if they don't then nobody else will
But she used to have a carefree mind of her own
With devilish look in her eye
Saying, "You can call me anything you like
But my name is Veronica"

Sometimes we would just sit there,
She wouldn't say anything.
I wouldn't say anything.
You would try to work out what was going on in her head,
but I think it's something we don't understand.
Not yet, anyway.

-Elvis Costello 

This song has always held a special meaning for me, as like Mr Costello, my grandmother's name is Veronica. Unfortunately, she was also afflicted with Alzheimer's Dementia, although it really didn't affect her until the last two years of her life. My last visit with her was in January of 2011, just before her 87th birthday. I've actually only been back to the East Coast a handful of times since then, and there wasn't enough time to swing down to Pennsylvania, or it became hard to justify as she probably wouldn't remember me and wouldn't be able to appreciate my visit.

It's a practical defense, although I acknowledge some selfishness and maybe a bit of cowardliness on my part. I've become a bit like an Alzheimer's patient. My memories of her are frozen in time. Since I was in my early twenties, I started making trips to visit my grandparents on my own, without my parents and without my other cousins present. In fact, it was a confirming factor that Husband was The One, when he expressed interest in joining me for these trips. We would eat dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon, and then spend our evening playing Yahtzee or other board games. We'd have CNN on in the background so we could debate politics, discuss how there will never be any greater baseball players than the inaugural Yankee greats, and how Reagan was the worst president ever, until George W Bush.

My grandfather died in 2008 and I wasn't sure how long she would last after that. She suffered a stroke in early 2009, which really affected her personality. It was after that event, that I felt that the grandmother that I knew was gone. I didn't witness her decline as my mother, her sisters and my other cousins did, I just had a sense that it was happening. I was a bit surprised that she made it through her surgery for her broken hip, and I knew her rehab potential was poor. I hoped she would just peacefully slip away at night or catch a brief case of pneumonia. About a week ago, she went into respiratory distress and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. That event became the catalyst for my mother to place her on a Hospice service.

Veronica closed her eyes upon the world last night. At last, it was her time. After six years apart, I like to think that she is reunited with my grandfather. I don't feel a sense of sadness, but relief. People tell me that they're sorry for my loss, as it's social convention to do so, but it sounds so unnecessary. She lived a long and amazing life, even if she was denied the title of great-grandmother.

This song is included on my running playlist, and I find it especially useful during a half marathon. I tend to feel really cranky around mile 8, and the boisterous melody and rare feature of a xylophone always lift my spirits and it reminds me of my grandmother. If she can survive ninety years in this world, then I know I can make it through a few more miles.

Good night Veronica. 


  1. Relief is such a reasonably response to the death of a family member with dementia. In many ways, the person you knew and loved died a long time ago. Either way, I am sorry for loss but glad that song brings warm memories.

  2. There are times where love equates relief at someone's passing. Thinking of you. By the way, Veronica is a really cool name.

  3. So glad this song brings you fond memories of your grandmother. I, too, am very sorry that you have to know what it's like to live without her but thankful that you know she has found relief. I love that you put it in perspective, that if she is capable of living a full and abundant life until 90, you can certainly make it a few more miles, in more ways that just physically running. Thinking of you and your family during this transition.

  4. What a beautiful tribute, Jane. Thinking of you.

  5. I remember feeling much this same way when my grandmother died a few years ago at age 93 with Alzheimer's. She had such a wonderful life, I found it so much easier to focus on that. She was lucky to have you as a granddaughter.

  6. I felt the same way when my grandparents died. Of course, it was sad to lose them, but they had so many health problems it just seemed like they could finally be at peace. It's great you got so many years with her. Not many people are lucky enough to have grandparents for so long.

  7. Such a lovely tribute. I'm so sorry for the loss. Thinking of you! xoxo

  8. I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother but it's great that you are able to keep the good memories of her. You were very lucky to have her in your life as long as you did.

  9. My Grandma has dementia. It is a hard thing to watch a loved one decline. I'm glad you have a lot of wonderful memories to cherish and a song that helps you remember them.

  10. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss... Praying for peace xoxo