Home » Opinion » Opinion: Grandma and her heart remain after Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Opinion: Grandma and her heart remain after Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Sallee Ann Ruibal (right) is pictured with grandmother Allee Hamilton. Credit: Courtesy of Sallee Ann Ruibal

Sallee Ann Ruibal (right) is pictured with grandmother Allee Hamilton.
Credit: Courtesy of Sallee Ann Ruibal

You hear conflicting comments when a loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s.

Some people say, “She’s still your granny.” Others say, “It’s not her anymore, it’s the disease.”

Both are right, but as someone whose grandmother has Alzheimer’s, neither provides much clarity or comfort.

The fact that one in six women at age 65 will develop Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association website, isn’t too comforting either. I could sit here and worry every day about whether my mama will forget our memories, too. I could worry about whether she’ll end up staring blankly at me, forgetting my name and our relation.

I could worry endlessly about the same thing happening to my brain.

I could also sit here and try to tell you what it’s like to be around my granny. I could say it’s frustrating and heartbreaking, which it is. This isn’t my story, though.

My granny can’t tell you about herself, but I can.

Allee Bonner was born in 1932. Her father died when she was young and her mother worked a lot as a nurse. She had a brother named Harry.

The only bad grade Allee ever got in school was an “F+” in choir for talking too much.

She met Joe Hamilton on a blind date and they were married in 1952. They’ve been together ever since.

And only recently has she stopped excessively chitchatting.

My granny was the kind of lady who had friends everywhere, from grocery store aisles to church pews.

Her friends ask about her all of the time and bring her homemade cookies and brownies.

My granny used to make cookies — chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, sandies ­— by ­the hundreds. She would count every single one as she carefully arranged them in empty ice cream buckets.

I miss those cookies. I miss having hour-long conversations with my granny.

I miss her wearing lipstick and blush and having her hair perfectly permed by her friend Tootsie.

But a very essential part of my granny is still there.

If you scold her for doing something wrong, like drinking from the salt shaker instead of a water glass, you can see fear and embarrassment in her eyes.

When my mom told her and my granddaddy that I made honor roll, she cheered, “She’s a marvel!”

When nurses talked about what the “next step” is for her, she cried.

The lipstick might be gone and the cookies might be store-bought now, but that’s OK, because my granny and her heart are still here.

She might not remember my name or all the stories we shared. But that’s OK.

Because I know my granny. 


  1. This is beautiful, Sallee Ann. Thank you for sharing your grandmother with us.

  2. Thanks for sharing Ms Ruibal. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family.

  3. Aunt Diane Hamilton

    Your story brought tears to my eyes. I miss the homemade apple sauce and jewish coffee cake. But I’m blessed that she shared her favorite recipes with me. Thank you for writing this heart warming letter.

  4. And, somehow, I believe with all my heart that her soul knows you, too. What a beautiful piece of writing, Sallee Ann. I worked with your mom for ages at The Enquirer – so I am not surprised by your talent. Knowing that you’ve got your granny’s heart in the palms of your hands – proven by your devotion to her despite your pain – feels to me like a shining star we all can look to when we quail at our own losses. Thank you.

  5. Love your grandmother, know you miss her as she was, but stay close to her. She shared the recipe for
    the Jewish Coffee Cake, which everyone likes, especially my granddaughter, make it all the time, have made 4
    in the few weeks. What a Special Story!

  6. I took too long to get to this picee.

    Thanks Sallee Ann! The Lantern needs more work like this.


  7. Pat (Schierenbeck) Jenkins

    What a beautiful tribute from a beautiful young lady about a beautiful older lady!!! She was/is one of my dearest friends when I lived in Finneytown and I gave piano lessons to your Mother who, in addition to being our favorite baby sitter, was an outstanding piano student and musician.

    Your grandmother is still with you in spirit even if the physical attributes appear hidden. God bless you for a fitting and heart-felt tribute to a woman who will always be admired by anyone lucky enough to have known her.

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