An elderly woman entered the salon, supported by her granddaughter, who appeared to be in her mid-thirties. "We are going to a wedding tomorrow", she said, "and my grandmother wants to look beautiful".
The elderly woman said very little, but smiled consistently as the stylist trimmed her snow white hair. Having supported her physically through the door, the granddaughter now helped her loved one emotionally. As she spoke tenderly about the nuptials they were about to celebrate, I could not help but be filled with joy for the bride, groom and their families. At the same time (somewhat selfishly) I was also reminded of my own wedding, which neither of my grandmothers lived to attend.
I was very close with both of my grandmothers. My maternal grandmother lived across the street from me for most of my childhood and I saw her on a near daily basis. In fact, my daughter Emilia is named after her. (For those of you who remember my grandmother as Jeannette, you are correct. But, that was her middle name. She went by Jeannette only to differentiate herself because Emilia was a popular name in her German family.) My paternal grandmother, Angelina, lived in the next town over. The Italian (read: big) side of my family gathered there every Sunday for pasta, the pool and more pasta.
Unfortunately, I lost both of my grandmothers before our wedding day, although my husband and I were gifted the time to celebrate our engagement with my mother's mom.
Still, as I stared longing at the lovely grandma in the salon, my heart filled with joy for her and those who would be with her this coming weekend.
Once her trim was completed, she smiled gratefully and took those ironic "baby steps" toward the door. I wished her a wonderful time at the wedding. She, her granddaughter and the stylist simply smiled back.
Once her client had left, the stylist came to me.
"She isn't going to a wedding", she said. "She has advanced Alzheimer's and the only way she will allow her hair to be cut is if she believes she is headed to a big event. Every time it is something new... a wedding, a holiday party, a graduation."
In that moment, I was overcome with so much emotion. But mostly I was happy for that little old woman, who gets to celebrate momentous occasions over and over again in her mind- even if only for a moment. While I cannot begin to comprehend how difficult it is to care for someone struggling with this terrible disease, I hope her loved ones can appreciate the beauty of that moment as much as I did.