My name is Rachel, and I am 19 years old. I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer's last November. Her name was Gloria.
She was born deaf and attended the Rochester School of the Deaf. My father was an only child and a miracle baby at that. Growing up, I have nothing but fond memories of her. Although an hour away, my family spent a lot of time with her and my grandfather, and nearly every holiday.
Every year, my brother and I were treated to a day at Fantasy Island, a little amusement park outside of Buffalo. Naturally being young, my younger brother Will and I loved to tease. Knowing her favorite ride was the Ferris wheel, we convinced her to join us on what looked like the classic Ferris wheel. To her surprise and our knowledge, it flipped you upside down while going around the wheel. She screamed bloody murder the entire ride. After getting off, rather than being mad, she just joined in the laughter after catching her breath.
About five years ago, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. As we grew older, family problems pulled my grandmother out of my life, but her desire to be a part of my life never changed; neither did mine. I paid visits when I could, and I never stopped receiving birthday or Christmas cards.
One year, I received a Christmas card from her in which she put a little letter talking about how much she missed spending time with our family and how she wanted so badly to spend Christmas with us that year. The catch was, every time she made a mistake in the note, she crossed it out and wrote "oops" over the misspelled word. I happened to read it in front of my best friend, and to this day she still refers to her as the "oops grandma."
Despite her abusive childhood and family problems, she never stopped loving life. Her name, Gloria, in and of itself is a definition of her beauty inside and out. She had a way about her that lit up a room. She displayed unconditional love for her family and friends. But more than anything she loved my father, her son. I have never witnessed more love in any relationship. I noticed this much earlier in my life, but as her Alzheimer's progressed, it became even more apparent to me.
On March 14, 2007 she took a fall in the bathroom of her home in Orchard Park, New York. Her husband took her to the hospital. From that day forward, she was never able to go back home.
My father started visiting her every Thursday and on special occasions such as Easter and Mother's Day. I did go visit her once in awhile, but it was tough for me to see. There came a point when she no longer knew who I was. Every week when my father came home, I asked him how she was doing. Despite all the pain in his eyes, he always had some hope. Each and every time my father left her side, he gave her a hug and kiss and said "I love you." No matter how far along her illness was she always, always remembered to say in return, "I love you too."