Alzheimer’s is a terrible thing. Slow, insidious, unstoppable. At first it’s almost like it’s toying with it’s victim. They know something is wrong, can feel themselves starting to slip, but there is little that can be done to stop the slow loss of memory, of self.
At first, it was just little things with my grandmother. She’d forget conversations she’s had minutes before, or get confused easily. Later on, she didn’t recognize her sons all the time. She once told my father “You can’t be my son. You’re an old man!” Funny, and yet poignant. The one person she never seemed to forget was my grandfather. Married for over 70 years, he was the one memory she had left.
I was able to visit her near the end. I was back in Indiana for my other grandmother’s funeral (it was a bad year for grandmothers in my life). I drove over to see my grandparents, feeling like if I didn’t visit then I might never see them again. The grandmother I’d known all my life wasn’t there. She’d been replaced by a stranger in a wheelchair. I knew she probably wouldn’t recognize me, but I’d still cherished the hope that there’d be some glimmer, some spark of recognition. Nothing. For all she knew I could have been a complete stranger. I suppose that’s only fair – she was a stranger to me, too. Nothing remained – she was a child trapped in an old woman’s body. So hard to see her like that, though we’d never been especially close. Harder still to see my grandfather trying to put a brave face on it.
I was glad I’d been able to visit, because 5 months later she passed away. Peacefully, in her sleep, with my grandfather by her side. Now all that’s left are memories.