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How do you say good bye to someone who doesn’t know who you are?

My Grandma, California Dreamin'

The thought hung like a black-out curtain in my mind as I kissed my grandma’s papery, wrinkled cheek good bye on Sunday.  She knew that I was familiar.  She even told me that my shirt made me look purdy.  She was always flattering of the curves that I so badly despised.  The recognition in her statement brought a salty wave to my eyes that leaned on the edge of my eyelids, threatening to turn into a torrent of rain upon my face.

She stared straight ahead into space as I kissed her, then looked at me from the corner of her eyes as I stood up, straightening my shirt.  I didn’t want to turn around and walk away but I had to go.  She looked away from me, staring at the television that she could not hear, and I turned to leave.  I took one last glance at her as I walked out the door and in that instant, she realized we were leaving her in her unfamiliar new home.  She reached her hand out to us and opened her mouth, in what appeared to me as a horror-stricken look.

They’re leaving me here and I don’t know why.

When we first arrived, she was all sunshine and bubbles.  She was chattering along and was absolutely enthralled with “the beautiful little girl” whom I call Madilyn.  After being beside her for about 5 minutes, she raised her hands to her cheeks and a surprised look enveloped her face as she said, “OH THERE YOU ARE!” to me.  But I don’t think she knew that I was her granddaughter, although this is the type of response that an unexpected visit used to elicit so perhaps for a split second, she knew me as Summer but I can’t be sure.

We spent some time with her, responding to her fractured thoughts as best we could.  We all began to feel claustrophobic and ventured outside to the little putting green in one courtyard of the facility.  Grandma began crying for her mother.  She wanted to go to her mother’s house where she could find comfort but she couldn’t find the way.  The wind was strong on Sunday and the invisible chaos was too much for her to bear.  She was sobbing loud, rhythmic sobs into my mom’s shoulders.  As the wind whipped leaves around us, I felt the earth crumble beneath me and I wanted to protect her but there was nothing I could do in that moment.  I suddenly told her that I found the way and I led her towards one of the doors back inside.  Once safe in the quiet confines of the facility, she yelled at us through child-like tears, “Don’t anyone EVER bother doing that for me EVER AGAIN!”  But what “that” was, we don’t really know.

Grandma and Pop

My Pop is devastated.  I know he is absolutely beating himself up on the inside for being unable to care for her.  As hard as this is, it really is the best thing for everyone.  He has been letting his own health decline so that he could care for her the best that he could, which was not nearly good enough.  But they’ve been married for over 65 years and now I see why he didn’t want to let her go into a facility.  He needs her.

She might not remember their story, or that they have 4 children and 3 grandchildren.  She’ll never mourn the loss of her 3 boys or rejoice in her last living child, my mom.  She doesn’t know to use the restroom when the urge strikes and she frosts cookies with superglue before eating them.  She’ll never go home again and meticulously clean her house because she thinks that cleaning solvents are meant to be drank.

Despite those things, she’s hurting.  She knows something is not right.  She’s in an unfamiliar setting full of people who suffer the same demise.  And in her wake, is a family who is grieving a woman who is still living.  My grandma has died a slow mental death and she is no longer the woman with whom I share so many memories.  My grandfather is a shell without her.  My mom is left to toil with putting this woman who carried her for 9 months under her heart, and brought forth her life into the world, into a facility full of people who have no idea where they are, where they’re going, or where they’ve been.  It feels like letting go of someone who is still living, but who has completely left the premises.  It just feels all wrong.

It’s a cruel, cruel disease and one that I hope to never let my family suffer through with me so I’m breaking up with it.

I will not fall victim to this delirious disease.

How can I be so sure?  

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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  11 Responses to “Breaking up with Alzheimer’s Disease”

  1. Oh Summer. I’m so sorry. *hugs*
    Jenn [ Crippled Girl ] recently posted..FasnachtsMy Profile

  2. I’m sorry. I’ve never had to deal with this, though I know that my paternal Grandmother has it. I’ve only ever seen her once and while it would be nice to meet her again I know that she will never know who I am and I am not sure that is the way that I want to remember her.

  3. Summer, I do not know what it’s like to have a family member with Alzheimer’s, but please know that I’m thinking of you. I wish you and your family the best and I have no doubts that this difficult decision was the right one. Thinking of you!
    Savannah recently posted..Why I’m BloggingMy Profile

  4. Oh Summer, I’m so sorry. I’ve dealt with this disease once when I was little but it was from a complete stranger who thought my house was his when he strayed from his neighborhood that afternoon. I have no idea what it is like when its family. If you need to talk, cry, or just take your mind off it, I’m here for you, girl!
    Audra recently posted..Kid for sale!My Profile

  5. Beautifully written Summer. We are all hurting, my heart is once again broken. I love my mom so deeply and I wonder why her life has been so painful. What helps me to go on everyday is You, Shelbi and my grandchildren. Thankyou Summer for giving me a reason to get up out of bed every single day.

  6. I went there with my grandmother. I know how you feel. Stay strong friend.
    Adriana Iris recently posted..About Getting Lost…My Profile

  7. Awww Summer this blog brought tears to my eyes. My ex husband Kyle, his maternal grandfather suffered from dementia. Before he died he reminded me of an innocent child. He always looked confused and you know he didn’t really know who we were or where he was. At times he would remember some but most of it was from the past. He would relive his own mothers death plenty which is a cruel joke. To truly believe something painful just happened when really it was over 20 years ago. He passed away in December and it was sad to hear. Summer I am so happy that you have a family to help support eachother. I will pray for you and your family and your sweet grandmother :)

  8. Oh, Summer. I know exactly how all of this feels.

    My grandfather, who died three years ago, had Alzheimer’s. My grandmother took care of him for longer than she probably should have and was devastated when doctors insisted that he be placed in a home. I was only able to visit him a handful of times (as they live in CA) but I’ll never forget those visits. He struggled to eat meals the proper way, was quick to get mad, and even violent at times. Though few and far between, there were moments of beautiful clarity. Moments when I knew that he knew exactly who I was and what I meant to him. Those are the ones I treasure.

    Every year we participate in an Alzheimer’s walk, that happens to fall on my birthday, in his honor. We talk about him as we walk – about all the funny things he has said and done, about the exciting life he led, and about how much he and my grandmother taught us about what loving someone really means. My mother and I always end up sobbing like babies by the end.

    Sending lots of love to you and your family.
    Hockey Wife recently posted..Poor little Spielerfrau.My Profile

  9. Hello Summer, I am sorry to hear about that. I understand how it feels and I hope and pray that all is well. Stay positive and strong in every situation. God Bless to you and to your family!
    Danyelle Franciosa recently posted..Bifold DoorsMy Profile

  10. So sorry to read this. My grandmother also had Alzheimer’s. It’s a brutal, terrible disease.

    I’m terrified of developing Alzheimer’s – it seems like such a cruel way to go and I’ve read of the heredity of the disease. When I found out I had Parkinson’s, I remember thinking “At least I can’t get Alzheimer’s now.” But then I read new research that said that you can get both diseases. So I’m looking forward to reading your part 2. I want to break up with Alzheimer’s as well! Praying for you and your family!
    Brandi Elam recently posted..Future Fortified: 1000 Days To Shape a Child’s LifeMy Profile

  11. [...] Living Facility for an Easter egg hunt.  It was so wonderful to see my grandma, even though she didn’t know who I was.  She told me that I looked beautiful and that my shirt was very nice.  I was shocked that she [...]

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