Monday, October 17, 2005
Future fears
I went to see my grandparents yesterday. It was an experience that I'm having a hard time letting go of.

My grandaddy has Alzheimer's. My great-grandma had it, too. She was very quiet and smiled a lot. I always just thought that's the way she was, and never thought twice about it. It was a bit of a rude awakening a few years ago when I found out that she once was a vibrant and fun woman. She was a little on the wild side, and completely lived up to the stereotype of redheads (which she was, a fire-redhead). I had no idea. I really didn't even know she had Alzheimer's till much later.

Anyway, back to Grandaddy. He is in the far-gone stage of Alzheimer's now. He shuffles slowly around the house. He plays with his belt buckle, unhooking and hooking his belt over and over again. He nervously fidgets with everything, and I'd have an easier time getting TJ to sit down for an hour than I would to get him to sit for a minute or two. His speech is slurred, and incoherent. He hallucinates and confuses people. Grandma said he rarely sleeps more than a few hours at a time anymore, and she's forced to get up with him, b/c he will wonder off, even out of the house, and hurt himself. He looks so old, and he's not. He's not the Grandaddy I know and love. He once was a fun-loving guy. He played tennis and golf. He was in the military, and retired from law enforcement. He was very friendly, and had a great sense of humor. I can still remember his voice clearly, and it was a lovely voice. He would play silly games with us, and take us to his cool beach house and go swimming with us and on bike rides. Grandaddy even mastered the combover, as much as I hate when men do that! I love him! I'm having such a hard time fathoming even the idea of such a great man being brought to such a level. I just feel like this is some kind of bad dream, b/c surely that's not even possible. To think that a man with such a commanding presence now greets you with a mumble and walks on by, going on about something completely irrelevant.

I'm learning the true meaning of love from Grandaddy's current state, though. My grandma is doing everything in her power to continue taking care of him and keep him at home. It must be so hard for her. She's got to be up with him at all times. She must take him with her anywhere she goes, and babysit him like a tiny baby (that happens to be three or four times her size--she's very, very skinny!). She was once also a very active woman, and now has had to drop everything so she can be there to take care of Grandaddy night and day, every single day of the week. She has some help, mind you, but it pales in comparison to the hard work that she now must go through. It's harder than having kids, I'm sure, as even with kids you can get some level of understanding out of them, and they do sleep at some point. Again, too, he's much, much bigger than her, and capable of so much more than any baby could ever do. Grandma said he frequently tries to move the furniture in the house, and yesterday I watched him rearrange several small rugs into different rooms. To fully understand how this is teaching me, you must know about my grandma. She is a very cold-seeming person, who shows very little emotion, period. She is nice, and I've always known she loves us, but you would never know from her expression. Everytime Taryn saw her yesterday, she would cry, if that tells you anything. So I know that she must truly, truly love Grandaddy to go to such great lengths for him. Despite constant pushing to put him in a home or get help, she refuses b/c she believes that his staying home with her is the best thing for him. I think that is so sweet (albeit a little insane to take on such a great burden!), and I have learned just what true love means from seeing her total dedication to their relationship. She exemplifies the statement, "in sickness and in health, for better or for worse" to a tee.

Probably the most scary part, though, is that it is hereditary. My great-grandma had Alzheimer's, my grandaddy has it, and it is likely that my mom will get it, too. She was so kind as to point out to me today that I have a chance of getting it myself, but that doesn't worry me. I mean, once I've gone braindead, I surely won't care, right! I can't imagine watching this happen to my mom, though, and being helpless to do anything to stop it. I love my grandaddy a lot, but I am so much closer with my mom. Once, I thought about her dying, and busted out into tears. Just imagine seeing her become like Grandaddy? All of this is really upsetting me, and I'm not sure what to think.

I've been thinking about taking the kids to a nursing home once a week to visit, and this has made me think that my idea is the right thing to do. Therefore, my goal for this week is to find a place that we can go to. Not only will it teach my kids about helping other people, but maybe it will help me prepare for what is to come. What a horrible disease Alzheimer's is.

I'll talk to you later. Have a good day.
posted by Christi at 1:09 AM | Permalink |


  • At 6:03 AM, Blogger k8

    it is freaking heartbreaking to se someone you remember as whole reduced to such behavior. your grandma is awesome to take that responsibility. we went through this with my grandmom's sister except she would get violent at times and claim people had stolen stuff- she would climb out windows bc she thought we wwere holding her prisoner. they will definitely be in my prayers!


  • At 8:35 AM, Blogger Jillian

    Oh, how sad. You make me wanna cry. My husband's grandfather had it too, and he was in a home for a while until my inlaws brought him home to take care of him. We used to get calls in the middle of the night that he was naked, running through the halls, and harassing the nurses. At least he was having fun. My prayers are with you and your family.

  • At 10:01 AM, Blogger Anvilcloud

    It's a tough thing for sure. My dad was pretty barmy by the time he shuffled off his mortal coil, and that makes me wonder about me. Anyway, it sounds like you have a good plan. Let us know how it works out.

  • At 12:08 PM, Blogger Daemon Cain

    It's such a difficult thing and probably one of my worst fears too.
    I'm only hoping that there is a cure soon.

  • At 4:19 PM, Blogger TBG

    I am so sorry for ou to have to go through that. It is a horrible disease. Maybe by the time your mom or yourself would get it they might have a disease. You never know.

    Have a great day and taking the kids to a nursing home is a wonderful Idea!!

  • At 9:52 PM, Anonymous Louisa

    Please emial when you can, sweetie...I have been thinking so much about you lately & I am so sorry that we've not talked. I miss your sweet face, kiddo!

  • At 3:40 PM, Blogger Cara

    That's really sad & scary... My grandmother also has Alzeimer's and let me tell you, as bad as I hate to say it, it's only going to get worse! My grandmother went down with it so fast. She is now in a nursing home and doesn't know anyone, not even her family.. She curses and hits the nurses, it's just awful.
    This may sound trite, but I have to laugh about it to keep from crying. And always keep in the back of my mind that she wouldn't be this way without this disease eating away her mind..
    What's really sickening, girl, they HAVE a cure... It's be curing people for years... But our FDA won't approve it.. So maybe, before you and I, or our mom's get it, it won't be a big deal and we can take a pill and be cured.. It's such a sad disease, I'm sorry your having to go through this.
    Hat's off to your grandmother.. She is quite a woman to face keeping him at home by herself. Keep your head up, I'll be praying for your grandfather!
    Wow, did I just write a book or what?
    I'm going to put your blog on my page if that's okay? I enjoy reading it!
    Oh, yeah, the people in the nursing homes love to see children.. My son loves to go (even though he thinks that mamaw is CrAzY!)! I think that's a wonderful idea, to get them used to it!

  • At 12:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    That's a great story. Waiting for more. » » »