Dementia is a weird little animal. I posted a video article a few months back about how dementia progresses. And, although it is different for all people, there seems to be a general path. When people ask me how Gran is doing, it honestly is really hard to tell. She has good days and bad days. Some days she is better than others- some times it is brain function issues, sometimes it is emotional, some times it is physical. How I gauge the progression of her disease is monitoring the pieces that she is able to put together.
As with most dementia cases, Gran lost her short term memory first. She’s been able to talk about times from her childhood and early adult hood with great detail. But, she has no clue what she had for lunch. Today, we’ve noticed another missing piece….
We’ve been trying to get information together to apply for Veteran’s benefits to get Grandmother some additional assistance. So, I’ve had to gradually ask her questions about my Grandfather’s military service to complete the necessary paperwork. I can’t ask her too much at one time, because she gets overwhelmed and upset. Most of the time, she can answer basic questions, and has been able to give me some information. Over the last week, she hasn’t been able to answer as much. Today, I really needed some information to complete the process. I even called my Great Uncle to see if might remember. He didn’t know what I needed, so I was forced to ask Grandmother.
Our conversation went like this….
“Grandmother, where did PawPaw do his basic training?”
Who are you talking about?
“Your husband, my Grandfather. Do you remember where he did his basic training for the Army?”
I don’t have a husband.
“I know, you don’t have a husband now. He has passed away. But you were married to Glen Roberts.”
I have never been married to anyone. I don’t know anyone named Glen Roberts.
“Sure you do. Remember, y’all met in Cuba. He has brothers Larry and Gail. Y’all were married, and had a daughter, Pam. You lived on Brookhaven Street.”
No. I don’t remember that. I’ve never met a man worth marrying.
I had to stop. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I bit my quivering lip. In all this time, Grandmother has never forgotten being married to my Grandfather. It has always been the highlight of her life. That, and my mom. She loved them more than anything in this world. And, now she doesn’t even remember them. There have been times she hasn’t been able to remember my mom’s name. Often, she’s asked me what my dad’s name was. Sometimes, she doesn’t know my name. But, she’s never not remembered being married or having a child.
After I regained my composure, I gave her as many details as I could possibly think of to spur her memory. All she could come up with was, he sounds like a good man. I’m glad you knew him. This evening, that may all come back. But, based on the things that have been slipping away lately, I doubt it.
I don’t know what is more upsetting to me. The fact that part of her is missing, or that I’ve lost something too. My Grandfather was always my favorite. I held a pretty special place in his heart, and he was my main squeeze as a kid. The first life altering event I can remember was him dying on my 9th birthday. I’ve always kept his memory alive, and loved talking with my Grandmother about how amazing he was, the amazing life he provided for our family, and the legacy he left. My son bears his namesake. And, now it seems she’s lost that. And, if she’s lost the memory of my mom too, that’s just too much.
This disease is horrid. It just rips your life away piece by piece. As tragic as it was to lose my mom so young and so quick, I almost prefer that than to have watched her suffer with this. And, honestly, I’m glad my mom didn’t have to see her momma like this- losing her mind piece by piece.