I've been reading Shell out Things I Can't Say for months. If you don't read her, check her out. And every Wednesday, she runs a meme called Pour Your Heart Out -- where you get to write about whatever you want, no critical comments allowed. I've thought about writing for months -- I've even started a few posts but never finished one. So here I am, trying again.
My grandmother has Alzheimer's Disease.She's 97 years old. So your first thought may be along the lines of "well, she's 97, she's lived a good life" or "wow, she's 97 years old!". And both of those statements are true. She has lived a good life and wow, she is 97. But no one, regardless of their age, should have to go like this.
Until two years ago -- at the age of 95 -- she lived by herself in the upstairs of a Duplex in Montreal. Her two sons (my dad and his brother) lived in other cities. And she was doing fine. But then she started to forget things, and started to make odd statements (and I don't need to go into details) and my dad and his brother became concerned. So, she moved to Ontario and in with my parents -- but before long, she moved to a retirement home and now a nursing home.
And since she moved into the nursing home in the winter, I feel like she's been deteriorating rapidly -- but maybe it's just because we didn't see her a lot during the disease's onset. I saw her less than two weeks ago for the first time in almost two months (her nursing home is an hour and a half away from my house so it's not an easy trip to make without pre-planning). She recognized me but never once said my name. In other words, she doesn't remember it. In August, when I last saw her, she knew my name. And at Easter when I saw her, she knew my name and that Ryan was my husband. This time, she didn't remember my name and wasn't quite sure who Austin was. He was such a good kid -- wanting to come with me to visit her -- and it broke my heart to have to explain to a five-year-old that although she'll be happy to see you, she might be 'silly' and not remember your name. And she didn't. But he took it in stride -- better than I did I think.
And when we talked about his sister, Alexandra, with her, she had no idea who she was or that she even had a great-granddaughter. And yes, she's met my daughter many times.
Soon will come a time when I go visit where, not only will she not remember my name, but she won't remember who I am. And I'm not sure I'm ready to deal with that yet.
Back in January of this year, she was hospitalized for pneumonia And although she was already visibly suffering affects of the disease, she was still very chatty and cognitive of her surroundings. And I sat for about 45 minutes and chatted with her. It was an odd conversation in that, some moments were very clear, and other moments we were talking about how she forgot to call her office and tell them she wouldn't be in that day. But we talked.
And in a way, I think I might have said goodbye to her that day. Because now, when I visit her, it makes her happy -- because she's always happy to see people -- but it's not entirely her there anymore, it's the disease.
And this disease is a terrible way for a person -- any person -- to end their life. It robbing her of 97 years of memories, and leaving memories for the rest of that we'd rather forget.