The Long Goodbye: Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s

The sun beamed down, glistening off the water as we splashed around in grandma’s pool. My daughter, Isabella, age 2 giggled as grandma splashed water all around her. They both laughed and grandma held her bobbing up and down in the pool. She told me it was so nice to have such a sweet woman come to help her today and she was so glad that I brought my daughter.

I knew her forgetting me was coming and I had prepared myself for it. She waited so long for me to have a child so her forgetting so quickly after was a bit of a blow, but in my mind I knew it was coming. She was still happy and loved us.

Our visits continued and we still picked gram up for coffee and donuts and got her out of the house. She got on the floor playing blocks and dolls with Isabella and they giggled over cookie crumbs in a cup of milk. It filled my heart even though I was no longer her grand daughter, but just a nice lady who came over to visit.

Gram kept asking when I was having another baby, and of course the time was coming. I waltzed around the summer I was pregnant and she kept asking what I had in my belly. I told her many times it was going to be a baby boy, but she never remembered. I knew she wouldn’t nor did I expect her too. I would tease and tell her I was having a baby fox and we would both giggle.

I had once again prepared myself that she would not know my second child at all. She had known Isabella at one time, but my baby boy she would never know. It took a lot of tears to try to prepare my heart for that and somehow I was still not prepared.

On a snowy November day when Jaxson was a few weeks old I decided I was ready for her to meet him and I was feeling up to getting out of the house. She had long lost the skills to drive so her visiting me was no longer an option. My birthing experience with Jaxson was really great and he was a very calm baby so I didn’t think my hormones were raging or that I was too emotional, but her meeting him and having absolutely no connection or recollection of me let alone her great grandson hit me like a tidal wave. A wave that crashed so hard I just fell in a puddle weeping on her bathroom floor with my sweet baby asleep in his car seat. It felt like such a blow. How could this woman I love so much be here, but not here?? How many times and ways will I have to say goodbye to her?

Weeks went on and I came to grips again with another loss. I mourned and moved forward and we settled into a new normal. Somehow I hobbled her to her bubble bath so she and Isabella could splash in the bubbles while Jaxson slept in his carseat and so it went. It felt harder taking Jaxson for some reason, maybe because he was a huge part of my life that she would never know despite being here.

I won’t lie, the story got sadder and sadder. I began visiting without the kids because the noise was too much for her. She lost her speech and mobility altogether. Each decline was another goodbye. Her last days were beautifully sad. I always enjoyed my grandma outside of the big family gatherings and her last days were no different. I felt such a peace just sitting by her hospital bed and listening to her favorite songs she had recorded on cassette. To be honest, I was silently pleading to God to take her home where she always said she wanted to go before she lost her speech.

Her burial was the final goodbye and somehow it felt just as hard and maybe harder than all the other goodbyes. It was the FINAL one. No more goodbyes to prepare for. It was the finish line of the marathon. I don’t regret a second of time spent with her, even though there were many sad moments and a journey of goodbyes. My mother was an epitome of strength and perseverance through the illness, keeping her in her own home and managing an amazing team of care givers. We all grew so close to the women who cared so well for grandma.

She’s gone in every way now, but not nearly forgotten. To anyone walking this journey, Alzheimer’s Disease is hard and it is long. Don’t abandon the one you love though. There are so many tears and so many goodbyes, but I do believe in spirit they know we are walking along side of them.

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