Alzheimer's Journey

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When I hear people make jokes about Alzheimer’s, I cringe. The haunting word sends chills down my spine. The word to me means death. The darkest memory I have involves my grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s, I still find myself crying when I think about it. I would like to say I have many happy and fun memories with my grandmother, but it would not be true. Although I know my grandmother had unconditional love for me, since she was diagnosed with “death” when I was young, I have few memories at all with her.

I’m not exactly sure when she was diagnosed, but I clearly remember the collapse of her memory. The first event was when my grandmother called my mother and asked how to make a chicken even though my grandmother had been making chicken for dinner ever since my mother could remember. The second event drew a great deal of our attention. My grandmother lived with her boyfriend, Jack; they decided not to get married because of their age. One night she called my mother and told her that Jack was gay because he was sitting on the couch next to his son in the living room. Of course we all knew Jack was not gay. Then, she called again about a week later and said that Jack had stolen her stuff. When we went over to her apartment we found her hiding in her clothes hamper with clothes covering her. The conclusive sign of the disease came one Saturday morning when my sister had a soccer game. We picked up my grandmother so she could go watch; she thought my mother was kidnapping us. I remember her words horrifyingly well, “Don’t take him you a**hole, take me. He is just so young and innocent.” Immediately my grandmother grabbed the steering wheel and tried to rip my mother’s hand off the steering wheel. Those moments were very sad for my family, especially for my mother.

We ended up putting her in a nursery home, and that absolutely killed my mother. Soon after she was put in the nursing home, my grandmother forgot how to talk. Quickly after that she forgot how to walk. Shortly after that, she could no longer remember how to eat and chew her food. After about four years of her being in the nursing home, my family moved to Carmel, IN. Of course we brought her with us and put her in a new nursing home. Everything was fine and running smooth until she broke her hip from falling out of her bed. The saddest moment for me was when my mother and I went to visit her during a Christmas party at the nursing home. Everyone was having a great time laughing and joking around with their loved ones. While my mother and I pushed my grandmother around in a wheel chair with her neck slumped over and completely oblivious to what was happening around her. The feeling of loneliness sat in our hearts that night, and we left with the most depressing feeling hanging over our heads.

My grandmother was getting horrifyingly worse. Soon the nurses had her hooked up onto machines and under constant watch. The day that my family dreaded so terribly stared us dead into the eye. The worst night of my life hit like a brick wall. My mother and I set out to see my grandmother. A nurse exited her room right as we entered, and she said my grandmother had gotten better according to the tests they were running. We stayed with my grandmother for an hour and I remember holding my grandmother’s left hand while my mother gripped her right hand and talked to her. My mother asked me to leave the room so she could have a moment alone with her. When my mother opened the door after saying goodbye she told me to say goodbye. When I opened the door the whole universe held still, something didn’t feel right. I looked at my grandmother and her wide open eyes just stared at me through her bifocals. The words just wouldn’t come out, but I managed to hold her hand and tell her I loved her very much. A tear drop fell off my cheek and dampened the sheets around her. She squeezed my hand forcefully and I gave her a hug and walked out. My mother then put her arm around me and started crying as we walked through the darkness of the parking lot towards our car.
We pulled up onto my driveway and sat there for a moment because my mother could not stop crying. She then told me we were going to get my father and sister so they could see my grandmother before she died. This whole time I wondered why my mother was acting that way since the nurse had just told us my grandmother was getting better. It turned out my mother was right and when we arrived to see her, the nurse told us she had passed away seconds after my mother and I had left. For weeks my mother would hear me crying at night, and for weeks my mother would lay with me crying.
I learned through this experience that the most important thing in this world is your family and the relationships that you build with those around you. People do matter. I have learned life is your one shot and you must make the most out of it. When life is done it is done. There is nothing after that other than regret. Poets say after you lose someone you love you find a beauty inside of yourself, but the truth is after you lose someone you find out the real person you always were inside.





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