Profiles in Dementia: Katherine Anne Porter’s Granny Weatherall

The Jilting of Granny Weatherall Katherine Anne PorterIn 1930, Katherine Anne Porter wrote a short story entitled “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” (click on the link to read the short story in a new window).  When I first read this short story in high school, I had never heard the term dementia (my mom’s grandma was senile in her old age, but she was the only person I ever heard of being senile based on firsthand knowledge).

I found Granny Weatherall, an elderly woman whose reverie drifted simultaneously between the past and present as if they had become merged, interesting, but heart-breaking. And as she relived her past like it was the present, her story gave full meaning to her surname of Weatherall.

However, it wasn’t until my own mom started intersplicing her past into the present during her journey with vascular dementia, Lewy Body dementia, and Alzheimer’s Disease that Granny Weatherall came back to the front of my mind. Upon rereading the story, I realized Granny Weatherall had some type of dementia. 

In my book detailing acknowledging, recognizing, and responding to the steps of the journey we take with our loved ones through dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease, I again had Granny Weatherall on my mind as I wrote Chapter 10.

It’s a story I highly recommend for all caregivers with loved ones who have dementias and/or Alzheimer’s Disease.

Katherine Anne Porter 1930How Porter had this kind of insight into the inner workings of how these neurological diseases manifested themselves internally – with Granny Weatherall – and externally – with her caregiving daughter – is a mystery, but Porter captures it perfectly and poignantly.

I think one of the things Granny Weatherall does for us as caregivers is that she reminds us that our loved ones were once vibrant, full of life, and they’ve seen a world of ups and downs that not only may we not be privy to, but that we can’t fully imagine or understand. 

I believe another thing that Granny Weatherall does is to remind us of the fragility, the humanity, and the dignity of our loved ones. Her internal indignation at her daughter’s well-meaning, but clueless caregiving makes us take stock of our own caregiving in relationship to our loved ones.

And the last thing that Granny Weatherall does is to remind us that death is part of the circle of life and it’s often harder on those it leaves behind than those it takes.

There a lot of good lessons here. I hope you take some time to read “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall.” Porter’s a good writer, so the story moves well, but it gives us as caregivers an inside look at our loved ones that we may not have considered or even been aware of before.

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