I said good-bye like any other visit. But this time, I meant it. I meant it like when a mother tells her child “I love you”.
I never knew him very well.
Papa Jack had been diagnosed when I was little (about 4) with Alzheimer's. He was someone I wish I had gotten to know better. Because I was so little I didn’t cherish the moments with him as much as I wish I had. My last memory of him was something I will never forget.
My Mom was crying. She was telling me to say good-bye. The smell of old people and cleaning supplies filled my sinuses. To me, this didn’t seem out of the ordinary. I was confused why it was sad for my Mom this time. We always said good-bye after a visit to the nursing home. I didn’t understand why this good-bye was so much harder for her. Being younger, probably about 7 at the time, I didn’t understand this was the good-bye. Mom meant it was my last time seeing Papa Jack. It wasn’t until she told me, that I understood. The upsetting realization hit me like a big wave. One big enough to knock you over. I still remember my face getting hot and the tears flooding in my eyes. It felt like there was a cork in my throat making it hard to breathe and swallow. Voices started to get blocked out and all I could hear were the nurses carts being pushed down the hallway and the faint music coming from the dining hall. After shaking off the worst of these feelings I stepped up onto the stool next to his bed and looked my Papa in the eyes. He no longer knew who I was. However that wasn’t something that crossed my mind in the moment. I looked at him in the hospital bed. His face showing worry. He was so confused and scared. I knew that where he would be going, was somewhere better than this. He deserved better than this. As I said good-bye I kissed him on the head and stepped down running into my mother's embrace. She held me there, squeezing me. My face was cradled in her shoulder. Her sweater felt like a blanket that was hiding my sadness from everyone else. Sobbing I knew that I wouldn’t get to know my real Papa. I will only remember him with Alzheimer's, and I will always wonder if we would have been close.
My Mom tells me stories about him from when she was little. What she tells me makes him sound like he was an amazing person. I can’t help but wish that I had known him like that. I miss him always and pray to him more as I get older. I hope I never forget my last good-bye with my Papa. I try to recall the good parts of the memory and think about them. This is a memory I cherish and look back on when I miss him. Remembering this is so important to me. Forgetting the memory would be like forgetting my wallet. I would never forgive myself for leaving something so important to me behind.