To lose yourself

I am thinking about my past today, and just remembered one of my biggest fears growing up. My Grandmother had Alzheimer’s (or what we thought was Alzheimer’s). As I slowly watched her lose her memories, I wondered what life is like for her. What did it feel like to slowly lose yourself? As this runs in families I was afraid I too would have Alzheimer’s, so I prayed to God about it. I told God to ‘not touch my brain. I can have any other illness, but not a brain illness.’

I held on to the memory of this thought all my life, but often forget the strong emotion that went behind it. Typing now I find it hard to convey the feeling behind this prayer. Such sadness and fear.

I am going back into memories more now.

I was young when my Grandfather died. I don’t have many memories of him, but I think it is thanks to him that I like tall men TOO much. (He was extremely tall.) He would give me Tootsie Roll Pops out of a big bag. He had a second refrigerator in his basement, which I thought was really cool. He loved Ginger Ale, and Arby’s.

At his funeral, all the younger kids went to the basement and played, but I did not go right away. First I sat in a chair and tried to understand death. I will never see him again. Then I went and played with the other kids.

Not long after his death, my Grandmother started to show signs of Alzheimer’s. My relatives took turns watching her for a long time, but sooner or later she had to go to a nursing home. We found a private small one at first.

While my Mother talked to an owner I stayed in another room where there was an elderly lady playing solitaire. The elderly lady would peek behind the cards before making a move and I wondered what the point was of playing a game by yourself and cheating. I didn’t ask why, as I was shy, and wondered about it a long time. Now I think it was because she didn’t want to have to shuffle too much.

My Grandmother did not stay at that home for long. Once while visiting we wondered why our highly active Grandmother was just seating in a chair. We discovered the stings of her apron were tied to the back of the chair so she couldn’t get up. We reported the incident, and of course, took her out of that nursing home.

We used to pretend to be Doctors to get Grandmother to take her medication. We would give Grandmother the phone and pick up the other end and tell her she needed to take her medication. She was extremely active and would get up in the middle of the night. Once she found scissors and cut up a blanket. (She used to make quilts so must have liked the fabric.)

I shared a room with my sister and Grandma would sleep in one of our beds with one of us on the sofa. I slept too deeply and never noticed Grandma getting up, so soon I slept on the sofa whenever it was our family’s turn to watch Grandma. I would wake up to the sound of parakeets singing and rather liked sleeping on the sofa.

Before my Grandma was ill she was a highly religious person. She would perfectly repair broken church statues. When the Catholic Church dramatically changed the mass in the 70’s she fainted in mass in shock… this requires some history in order to make sense.

Before the dramatic change in the mass in the 70’s Catholic masses were said entirely in Latin. The priest would not look at the people as he talked, but instead faced the cross of Jesus the whole time. So his back would be what was facing the people. There was no singing either. Catholics were rapidly converting to other Christian faiths that were much more inviting in their services/mass.

So the Pope decided to change, to completely turn the priest around. It was a big change and I am sure my Grandma wasn’t the only fainter. I wish the current Pope would make dramatic changes.

I think that is enough memories for today. Cheers to you for reading to the end.

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