to continue with my new series, i thought i would talk about alzheimer's/dementia and my grandpa that has been diagnosed with the latter. be warned, it's kind of lengthy.
a few years ago (i'm not quite sure when exactly), my grandpa on my mom's side was diagnosed with dementia. he had such a late stage of it that his doctor didn't see any point in putting him on any medication to help slow the process. apparently it wouldn't have done anything. when i heard that, i was pretty upset about it. i wanted my grandpa to stay my grandpa as long as possible and not giving him anything that might help him, even in the slightest, confused me. of course, his doctor knew what was best for him and his situation and eventually i came to accept it.
within the last few weeks, my grandpa was placed in an alzheimer's care home. it was very hard for everyone in my family, i think mostly my grandma, my mom and my uncle's. i believe it was the best decision that could have been made for him. in fact, i've been in favor of placing him in a home for a while now.
i watched my mom and uncles struggling with the fact that their dad didn't know them. i watched my grandma get frustrated when my grandpa didn't believe anything she said and was constantly questioning who she was and their marriage. yes, there were times when my grandpa seemed to understand what was going on, but isn't that the case with a lot of these cases? aren't people with alzheimer's/dementia capable of "acting" or "pretending" that they know what's going on? my grandpa would tend to not say very much when asked a question or stammer like he knew what he wanted to say but was unable to get it out. and when most everyone was around him, it was during the day, when he was at his best. the evenings were the hardest. he would think that he hadn't eaten dinner or that he was hungry when in fact he had just eaten. or he would forget when he had gone to the bathroom last.
my dad mentioned to me once that looking back on things, he could see hints of this disease creeping in to my grandpa's life. not calling my dad by his name, getting a lot quieter, having a hard time coming up with the words he wanted to say. all of these things, looking back, make sense. my grandpa kept going to coffee with some of his friends in the morning but people would pick him up and give him rides instead of him driving himself, for fear of getting lost.
i remember when his doctor recommended my grandma take his keys away and hide them. and then when they got rid of his beloved truck. and then when he couldn't even drive my grandma around. that killed me.
i didn't visit him as often as i should have and when i did visit, i always seemed to talk with my grandma instead of him. i don't know if that's because he was just quiet and didn't say a whole lot or if it was because i was scared of how i would react trying to have a conversation with someone who couldn't remember my name or exactly who i was and really only knew me as "the daughter of the woman who lives across the street".
it's weird, having someone so close to you in your life that can't remember you. i read a book once, still alice, and it really touched me. it helped me to understand what it might be like to be someone living with this disease, how difficult life would be and how frustrated you could get.
another difficult thing for me that i experienced a few months ago was coming to the realization that i had, in fact, lost my grandpa. even though he was still here on this earth, he wasn't really my grandpa. the grandpa that i knew and loved was gone. he wouldn't remember telling me all about his truck-driving days or drawing pictures of horses or cows or trailers. he wouldn't be able to recall playing in the backyard with my sister, brother and cousins, building things in the sandbox or letting us help plant corn in his garden. he wouldn't remember his own son's dog, keeyah, and how wonderful she was. he wouldn't remember all of the bible stories he would tell us and he certainly wouldn't remember the day this his deceased daughter came to visit me, with jesus by her side, while i was staying over at his house. and he told me that i should write about that story and send it in to guideposts. i never did and will probably always regret that. maybe if i would have written in and told my story, he would have a hardcopy and maybe that might help jog his memory? probably not. his memory was so far gone that he thought his two son's were actually his brothers and that his parents were still living. he thought he had to get up in the morning and tend to his chores on the farm. the only thing that he really, truly, remembered, was his beloved dog shadow.
oh, that dog. even before he was diagnosed, he wanted to make sure he was home from wherever he was in time to feed his dog at the scheduled time. and shadow never got more than his daily quota of carrots or dog food that grandpa was told was recommended for a dog of his size. and he walked that dog every day for as long as his body would allow. he probably loved that dog more than anything. and now, shadow still lives at home, with my aunt and uncle taking him for walks. i wonder if he misses my grandpa, or if my grandpa misses him?
i miss my grandpa.
*these are memories that i have of my grandpa.
they might not be the same memories that other members of my family have,
and i'm okay with that, even if they aren't correct.
but they are my memories, and i'm just happy to be able to preserve them in this way.
and i'm sure as heck gonna try to preserve more memories i have like this,
whether that be on the blog here or in another spot.