Everyone goes through hard times in their lives. Sometimes, it feels like the bad times outnumber the good times. The worst thing that ever happened to me was losing my grandfather. My pap suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and the last five years have been some of the hardest in my life. In my opinion, Alzheimer’s is the most debilitating, horrible disease.
When my grandfather first got sick, the illness progressed pretty slowly. I didn’t realize what it would be like as time advanced. He eventually moved in with my mom, my brother and myself, because living alone was too hard. It was so sad to see him not be able to complete simple tasks such as turning the air conditioning on in the car and turning on the television. One time, he couldn’t remember how to open our door. My brother showed him how to do it, as I stood there astonished, tears welling in my eyes. It was so hard for me to tell him “no” when he was doing something that he shouldn’t have been doing. Sometimes he would get angry, and I never wanted him to be mad at me. The anger was part of the disease, but nonetheless, it still hurts to have someone you love be upset with you.
My pap eventually needed 24-hour supervision. One day when my mom was at work and my brother and I at school, my grandfather left the house with my dog. The police found him walking down the road and took him to the station when he couldn’t answer any of their questions. We were very fortunate that the police saw him. I shudder to think how that situation could have ended differently. My mother was his primary caretaker and decided it was time to put him in an assisted living village. I hated the idea of putting him there, but knew it was the right decision. It took me so long to even visit him because it hurt so badly. My mom visited him everyday, and I would meet them for lunch. The saddest part was when it was time to leave. My pap would follow us to the door, repeatedly asking, “Can you take me home?”
In November of 2006, my grandfather got sick with the flu and was admitted to the hospital. I thought he would get better and be able to have Thanksgiving dinner with the family. Because his immune system was so low, and the risk of infection was so high, he never really recovered. He wasn’t able to walk or even eat by himself anymore. He was moved to a hospital care facility. My mom, being the pillar of strength, continued to visit everyday. Even though he was getting worse, he still managed a smile when he saw us, and he was able to hold your hand like he’d never let go.
On May 30, 2007, my grandfather lost the battle with Alzheimer’s disease. I’ll never forget where I was and how I felt when my mom told me he was gone. The earth shifted underneath me, and the world as I knew it would never be the same again. The funeral was a nightmare that I desperately wanted to awake from, and saying goodbye forever was completely indescribable. It’s been a constant struggle to get out of bed every morning, to avert my eyes when I see his picture because I’ll cry, and to smile on the outside, while heartache consumes me on the inside. I cannot bear to think of the holidays without him. I’ve never dreaded Christmas, and now it just looms in the distance. My mom has been my rock through all of this. She amazes me everyday with her courage and determination. My family is my strength, and together, we will get through this terrible time.
My grandfather would have been 81 on August 11, 2007. In my heart, I know my grandfather would not have wanted to live the way he did. He was so independent and always wanted to be the one helping, not the one being helped. Many say he had a long life. I will not deny that, but he was robbed of so many years because of this crippling disease. Even though he couldn’t remember my name, he knew who I was. Maybe he didn’t know I was his granddaughter, but he knew that I loved him. My grandfather was, and still is, the best man I’ve ever known. His heart was made of solid gold, and I hold him on a pedestal that no one else will ever come close to reaching. If I had to use one word to describe my pap it would be “hero.” He will forever remain a part of me, in my heart and in my soul, until we meet again.