I was recently with a friend when she received a call that her daughter was at Disney World and got separated from her dad. The security at Disney was calling her for her daughters’ father’s number to reconnect them. I witnessed my friend handling the situation with calm and grace. However, I could tell she was holding back her fear and anger. It wasn’t long before the security called back to say that they were able to reconnect her daughter with her dad. There was a sigh of relief from my friend however a feeling of helplessness still appeared to be there. I can imagine the helplessness stemmed from not being in the same state as her daughter and being miles away. My friend is separated from her daughter’s father so she didn’t accompany them on the Disney trip. I can empathize, not only because I have a blended family but because as I shared with her I recently got separated from my grandmother who has Alzheimer’s, while shopping in the mall.
Can you picture me telling the mall security officer, as he asked me who is the missing person…? She is about ummm, well Officer I am not sure of her age because she has never told us. She is wearing a black short wig and a designer jogging suit.
My grandmother is a true matriarch. She was the first to migrate to the States and also brought her five children, which includes my mom, for a better life. She migrated for the opportunity to work as a Registered Nurse. She was also my inspiration for being an RN. That and being Jamaican you are either going to be an RN, a lawyer or a doctor. To go to school for anything else is unimaginable! When my grandmother last visited she had early symptoms of Alzheimer’s. She would forget things and repeat statements over and over again, forgetting she had just told us. I think being an RN and working with Alzheimer’s patients has prepared me to recognize symptoms of the disorder and help to take care of my grandmother. However, nothing has prepared me for the emotions you feel when it’s one of your own. There is no preparation when your grandmother doesn’t remember your name or your children. There are times when she does remember me, but it’s as a child. She called me Marsha and I was excited that she remembered my name but then she asked where is my mom and who are these kids, referring to my children.
I was giving my grandmother her morning pills and she said to me she doesn’t understand why she has to take these pills they aren’t working. She continued to say that when she is at home in New Jersey she doesn’t take them. Instead of telling her, that’s why we don’t want her at home by herself; I decided to tell her a story of my recent visit with my grandfather, her now ex husband.
I recently visited my grandfather while on Vacay in Jamaica and as soon as he saw me he told me to look at his swollen testicles… (not our usual greeting). My grandfather knows I am an RN and he appeared to have been in some discomfort and just wanted me to suggest some comfort, which I did. He needed to go to the hospital!
I shared with my grandmother my visit with my grandfather and the importance of taking her medications so she does not end up in the hospital like him. It was then I learned that her long term memory was intact. She stated “first of all I do not have testicles and second it’s because your grandfather lived the life he did why his testicles are swollen…” I could do nothing but laugh.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that one of the symptoms is an inability to create new memories. My grandmother retaining that memory of my grandfather’s infidelity made me think of the importance of living in the moment and creating memories that will last a lifetime. If we are blessed to get to old age but lose the ability to create new memories we will be happy that in our younger years we lived, loved, laughed and didn’t hold grudges.
Thank you for Reading!