My grandpa has Alzheimer’s so he has no idea who my grandma is but everyday for the last three or four months he brings her in flowers from their garden and asks her to run away with him and be his wife and everyday she says she already is and everyday the smile my grandpa gets on his face is the most beautiful heartfelt thing I have ever seen.
PLEASE STOP ROMANTICIZING ALZHEIMER’S
Alzheimer’s can be fascinating. It can revel truths about life and humanity in a way nothing else can. But do not mistake the reality of it as anything less than truly horrific in a deeply personal way.
Imagine spending a whole lifetime making deep friendships, falling in love, learning new things, having inside jokes, adventures, successes, failures, new beginnings. Alzheimer’s makes your whole life disappear like it never happened. All the things you achieved, the people you know, disappear.
Yes, there is a period where interesting or amusing stories often come out, where victims only remember particular things. Incidentally, there was point in the disease where my Grandma no longer remembered any of her children, but knew all the lyrics to any song you played from her youth.
However, no one talks about the period the comes after that. Eventually the mind decays so fully that you are basically an empty shell, who can no longer, eat, walk, wash, or wipe. It’s a slow processes that can deeply hurt loved ones. In states without “the right to die,” you can only sit by watch the person you love decay. They will be there, often physically normal, but gone. I remember for years my mom would pray for her mom to die. Which sounds cruel, be trust me, it was out of pure love.
there’s also the part where your grandpa is there every day but your grandma can’t remember and she gets mad when he walks in because she thinks he’s abandoned her for months.
"lauren, you’re getting so big, how old are you?"
or when she thinks her youngest son (who is now in his fifties) has crawled away and she’s hysterical because she thinks her baby is dead in a ditch and this happens every night.
"my girl, you’re so pretty, how old are you now?"
or the part at the end of a good day where her mind shuts down and she thinks everyone is out to get her. and she has forgotten it’s her birthday. and she has forgotten that she likes chocolate. and she has forgotten that eating chocolate ice cream in a cafeteria at 4pm is a thing that we’re doing to celebrate her life, and we’re not even sure why we’re still doing this because it’s not for her benefit and it’s not for ours either. ritual, i guess.
"mon petit, look how big you are, what grade are you in?"
or the day you walk into an alzheimer’s ward and a stranger is pleading with you because she doesn’t think she needs to be there, that’s she’s not crazy and someone has trapped her in this place and the only reason you’re even sitting in the hallway is because your own grandma had a meltdown and you’re waiting for someone to unlock the door so you can get out but it’s also locking your grandma in, and you hate it but it’s not like anyone is capable of taking care of your grandma because she needs professional help.
"leila, i haven’t seen you in years, what are you doing here?"
on the way home, we talk about the facility’s therapy dog.