Sunday, November 19, 2006

A mind is a terrible thing to lose

Grandpa didn't recognise me today. He didn't recognise me a few weeks back either, when my brother and I went to rake the leaves from their yard. Back then grandpa did know my brother, but had thought that my brother's brought a new girlfriend with him...

So there we were, raking leaves again. This time with mom and dad. I was already busy with my corner of the yard and grandpa had seen me from a window. He had muttered to mom that "There's some girl out in the yard with a rake. Come, look! Who is it? Do you know her?" Mom had explained to him that "the girl" was in fact his granddaughter. Grandpa had looked puzzled and sad. "My head's not working properly anymore. I get confused."

His Alzheimer's is getting worse fast. He doesn't remember that grandma lives with him (he keeps asking her if she lives there and when will she be leaving), he doesn't always even remember my mom (he had asked grandma where does she know her from) and the list goes on.

It really is heartbreaking to watch how a person's mind crumbles. On better days grandpa seems to understand his condition, but today, for example, he has problems with the most common words and if he tries to tell a story, it very soon becomes incomprehensible, because he confuses times, places and names. Sometimes there is no connection between two consecutive sentences.

The silence around the table when he tries to find words is a sad silence. I'm not sure whether it'd be better to try and help him with his sentences or just wait till he finds his words (or falls silent himself). And in the middle of it all, what makes me most sad at the moment is not the thought of me losing grandpa but of mom losing her dad and grandma losing her beloved husband.

There's no way for me to know what it must feel like to foresee the end of a 60 year marriage, but I do know that the thought of losing a parent is frightening as hell. It's something most of us have to face some day, but I can honestly say that I fear the day terribly. And that's why I feel so sad for mom.

I suppose it might have something to do with my life situation. I don't have a family of my own, except for my parents and my brother. No husband, no kids. I've pondered about this before (and the thought is very difficult to put into words, but I'll try...) - does the fact that I haven't gone through the "transition" from being "only" a daughter to, say, being also a wife, make me cling more to my parents? (Agh, how medieval do I sound? The thought is obviously clearer in my head than it will ever be here...) I mean, since I don't have anyone else in this world that I'd love as much, does the fear of losing my parents become a bigger monster, even now that I'm not dependent on them as such? Or do I just have ridiculously unrealistic ideals about "real love" and how it would make a difference? Or am I just being a selfish idiot, who thinks she's somehow different from everyone else, feeling like this?

Or am I just being ridiculous altogether? Agh.

Be how it may, I can honestly say that no matter how quickly this all ends, Alzheimer's has had its chance to show us how cruel a disease it really is.


kate said...

I feel the same way. my great-uncle died about 3 months ago, and until he died, he had Alzheimer's. It is so hard when you see someone you love not know who you are. I feel for you.

Johanna said...

It is really hard, isn't it? One just keeps hoping it'll all be over before it gets even worse.

I'm really sorry for your loss, Kate. But thank you for reading & commenting. Take care!

freddie said...

dear Johanna,
I'm so far from where you live, yet I feel so close to you and to what you're going through. I do believe it's hard. To say goodbye to a parent is really difficult, and I don't think it would change had a family, I mean, they are our parents, people who gave us life and more and more... Beside that, we shall always learn something from our present for our future, I hope you'll learn something.
Sorry for my poor Enlighs