- Posted February 18, 2013 by
Alzheimer's: I’ve never met you yet.
I’ve been writing a lot lately, I’ve had the extra time. Though I have written several personal and revealing articles, none will be as personal as this.
I grew up in England, in a small city named Chichester. One of the corner stones of my childhood was my grandparents, Nan and Granddad. Granddad died after years of suffering after a stroke. He died when I was eleven. This article isn’t about him, but I would like to note that he was one of the most loving and compassionate people that I have ever known. Even in his stroke induced silence, granddad always found a way to let you know that he loved you, a great and inspirational man. I wish I could have known him more.
My nan was sharp and on par for many years after granddad passed. I moved to America, but would occasionally visit her home in England, by surprise, and she would welcome me with open and loving arms. She would be so excited to see me, no matter how long it had been, and would immediately offer to put on the ‘kettle’ and bring me my favorite ‘biscuits’ to accompany my tea. She was, well, my nan. I loved her.
My nan is still alive today, at least her body is still performing its basic functions, her mind however, is long gone.
It started slowly, I would visit, and my nan would recognize me, but confuse me with other people in her life. Once I was Glenn, the cab driver that took her to her social events. Another time I was Andrew, my distant cousin from South Africa, regardless of who I was, she knew my face.
I visited nan again last year, and now it was different. The tragic onset of Alzheimer’s had completely consumed her, she had absolutely no idea who I was. This was understanding, after all, she hadn’t seen me in at least a year. My mother reminded her that I was Richard, her grandson. “Hiya nan”, I said with a half smile. Surely now we would spend the rest of our visit recounting memories of when I was just a lad, messing around in the garden and granddad telling me stories of his youth. Sadly not.
It wouldn’t be another two minutes before my nan would look nervously at my mother and inquire, who was this tall young man sitting at her table. “That’s Richard, your grandson”, my mother would reply. “‘Chortle’, I think not”, nan snapped back.
My nan had no clue who I was, no clue, and it hurt. It’s not her fault, she didn’t ask for this illness. But when you sit on the other side, it hurts. I only encounter this maybe once a year, I can’t imagine how my immediate family must feel dealing with this constantly.
Nan forgets everything, about once a minute. You can tell her everything she has ever known, she’ll acknowledge it, and a second later you’ll have to start again.
It does make me sad, but I cannot imagine how hard it must be for her, to daily learn that her husband is gone, to daily learn that everything she just thought is either untrue or forgotten. Horrible.
My nan will never know me again, but she will alway have memories of me, and I of her. If there is only one thing I would like my nan to remember, it is this...
Nan, I love you, and I will always remember our memories, the good, the bad, and everything in between. I am here because of you, and I am glad that you were able to live such a long life. You are my nanny, and I love you. I hope that I am never robbed of those memories.
God bless the people that care for her, and God bless my nan. I would hate to speak of her in a past tense, but my nan as I knew her is gone. These are the tragic and horrifically sad results of Alzheimer's.
Nan, if you remember one thing, remember this: I love you nan, please try to never forget it.