I remember as a child, probably around 10 years old, my Grandpa telling me the same stories over and over again. I would say “Grandpa, you already told me that.” And he’d shrug his shoulders and say “Yeah, maybe I did.” And we would go back to playing whatever game we were playing.
My Grandparents on my mother’s side were my whole life back then. My parents were divorced and my mother moved back to her home town to be closer to her family. Being a single mother of two girls I’m sure she needed all the help she could get. Their house became my safe spot. I always felt loved and welcome there.
My Grandma was your typical house wife of the 1950’s. She did everything for just about everybody. My Grandpa spent his days tinkering on projects in the garage. Breakfast, dinner (lunch) and supper were always at the same time. And the food was always the same. Anything from homemade macaroni to goulash, pan fried hamburger patties to pork and beans. Your typical American dishes.
I loved their house, well, because it was a house. Not an apartment or a duplex with scary neighbors. There was a big fenced in backyard with plenty of room for a kid to get into trouble. I would ride my bike around in the dirt and crash into the chain link fence. Stuff kids dreams are made of. Climb the tree, swing on the swing, build forts and play in the mud. It was a magical place.
I sometimes wish I were older. That I knew the importance of the time we spent together. When your 10 years old you’re not cherishing the moments you share with your grandparents. You’re worried about your next adventure in the backyard and if you’re going to get some jello for a snack. It never crosses your mind that you will never get these moments back. That once they’re gone, they’re gone.
My Grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease when I was very young. His disease got the best of him about 10 years later. He suffered a stroke on September 11th, 2001. Yeah, I know, that was just a bad day all around. He passed away exactly two weeks later.
My Grandma did surprisingly well. She was enjoying sleeping in and not cooking dinner. Skipping a cleaning day and watching baseball on the television. My aunt moved in to help her as she got older. Eventually it was clear that she needed constant care. She could no longer walk on her own and my aunt was not physically able to help her anymore. She was moved to a small assisted living home. It wasn’t the fanciest place but the workers were all very nice. I’m confident that she received good care. I wanna say she was in there for a couple of years. My mother and aunts visited her everyday, I went on the weekends because I worked during the week.
At some point it was clear to us all that she was ready to go. In overall good health, there was no reason for alarm except that she started refusing to eat. I knew that her quality of life had suffered greatly after losing her ability to walk. I can only imagine her discomfort. She passed away with all of us by her side.
I can picture them now, dancing together. Roller skating to their favorite song or bowling while sharing a pop. They were great people and I miss them every day.
Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that has plagued our family. My aunt was diagnosed a few years back. And I’m sad to say that today she had to be admitted to a care facility. Her anger is too much for my uncle to handle alone. I dread the road we are about to walk along. Knowing all to well what to expect. It seems harder now that I’m older. I have more empathy than I did as a child.
Death is not something I claim to worry about. But I can’t say that I am not scared of it. The unknown. I worry about never seeing the ones I love again. I worry about being alone. I worry about being a burden on my family. Life has a way of dragging out a lesson and not revealing it’s meaning until the very end. I’m sure I will get to a space where I will feel more comfortable with death. But I can’t see that happening soon.
I’m not ready to deal with this again. I don’t think I ever will be. I don’t understand why Alzheimer’s exist but I wish I could make it disappear.