Country Music Television’s 2023 “Next Women of Country” and Black River artist and songwriter MaRynn Taylor recently spoke to us about her family’s journey with her grandparents, who are both living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Tell us about your connection with Alzheimer’s.
Both of my paternal grandparents are living with Alzheimer’s disease. I love them both very much. I have so many fond memories growing up with them.
My grandma taught me how to whistle. I remember that day so vividly. We were sitting on the driveway and I kept trying, and trying. Finally, I got it. She was so proud of me for something as simple as whistling.
My grandpa was outdoorsy. He loved tending to the lawn and us kids would reap the benefit of a giant pile of leaves. I remember always being excited when fall came around because I knew we’d be going to my grandparent’s house and I was going to get lost in the leaves.
I hold on to these memories, big and small, so closely because I know my grandparents are not able to hold onto them anymore. It’s my way of remembering for them.
What were some of the first signs you saw in your grandparents?
I noticed the first signs with my grandma when I was a freshman in high school. She would repeat the same questions. “What’s the weather like today?” Five minutes later she’d ask, “Have you noticed the weather? It’s a nice day.” I never told her that she already asked about the weather because I didn’t want to embarrass or upset her. Instead I’d say, “Yes, grandma, it’s gorgeous outside. Wanna go for a walk?”
My grandpa started to show signs after I graduated high school. He and my grandma were in assisted living by then. He would repeatedly ask the same questions. “Where’s my truck?” and “When are we going back to Michigan?” It was hard to tell him, “This is your home now.”
What has been the hardest part(s) of the Alzheimer’s experience?
By far the hardest part is them not knowing who I am. The first time my grandpa forgot who I was, it really hurt. I knew it was going to happen someday, but it’s something you can never prepare yourself for.
Is there anything you wish you had known about the disease before experiencing it with your family?
I was very confused at first. It caught me off guard because my grandparents were not the same people I grew up with. Both of them were so wise and sharp. At the beginning, I did a lot of research to understand what they were experiencing and how to best engage them. The main thing I learned, and strive to do to this day, is keep them happy. I don’t know how long they’re going to be around so I want to soak up every moment I get with them.
You released your new song titled “i love you, remember” on October 27th. Can you talk about the inspiration for that song? How do you hope your music will inspire others?
I was sitting on the couch talking with my grandparents when out of nowhere my grandpa asked, “Who are you?” and “How do I know you?” When I told him I was his granddaughter, MaRynn, he got upset and apologetic for forgetting who I was. It was heartbreaking. At that moment, I remember thinking ‘What do you say to your loved one in this situation?’ The first thing that came to mind was “I love him. He’s the person I’ve always known. He just doesn’t know who I am anymore and that’s okay.”
My song “i love you, remember” was inspired by that moment with my grandpa. The only thing that matters in those moments is the love you will continue to carry on for someone special even if they are no longer able to remember. “i love you, remember” is more than just a song – it is my tribute to my grandparents. My hope is that it will help shine a bright light on the battles families face every day when someone is experiencing Alzheimer's disease. I hope people find peace and resolve within the song.
Congratulations on your Grand Ole Opry debut in June! In November, you’ll be performing “i love you, remember” on a very different stage at the Nashville Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Can you talk about what performing your song at Walk means to you?
One of my favorite things about performing – especially as a new artist – is watching and hearing people relate to my songs even if there is only one person in the crowd. “i love you, remember” is one of my most personal songs yet. Some of the lyrics capture cherished memories I share with my grandparents from getting ice cream at my favorite ice cream shop to fishing on my grandpa’s boat.
It was so special to perform on the stage at the Nashville Walk and to share my story and song with others!
How do you hope to use your platform to draw awareness to the Alzheimer’s cause?
I want to use my platform to let people know they are not alone in this, especially people my age, because I know that I’m not the only grandkid going through this with a grandparent. I plan to keep talking, spreading the word, and sharing my story so people know that they are not alone. You can face this disease with an army of people supporting you, including the Alzheimer’s Association.
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