January 3 11

I went to see my Grandma last week.

But that woman sitting in that chair? She is NOT my Grandma.

Sure, she might look like her, but it’s not her. She is a woman whose body and mind are riddled with a shitty, shitty disease called Alzheimer’s. She is a woman who lives in a lovely home in Georgia, where they sit her in the sun and sing to her and read to her and cook for her and love on her. But she doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know where she is. She doesn’t recognize me or my sister or my brother or my father or my stepmom. She doesn’t recognize Emily or Joshua or Isabella. She doesn’t remember how to use the bathroom. She doesn’t remember how to use utensils. She doesn’t remember words well enough to string coherent sentences together. She doesn’t remember the difference between laughing and crying.

She cries a lot.

A LOT.

She cries so much it makes me cry.

She cries so much it makes my kids cry.

They tell us that she occasionally uses the names of my Grandpa. Of my dad. Of my sister. Of me. There are shades of her that escape her lips…but they are not memories, they are not happy thoughts. They are simply automatic. They are just as automatic as her crying. She does not know that she used to wear a lot of track suits. She does not know that she used to let us buy marshmallow cereal and allow us to pick out all of the marshmallows and toss the cereal in the garbage. She does not know that she always carried salad dressing packets in her purse. She does not know that she gave me $1.47 in Canadian coins as a wedding gift. She does not know that she used to know every single thing that ever happened on the Young and the Restless. She does not know that Emily was her favorite and she was a big fan of telling me that Emily was never going to get lost in this world. She does not know that her favorite foods were Smart Ones. She does not know that the only gifts she ever gave us were the $75 checks we used to get at our birthdays and Chanukah. She does not know that she used to love to take us to Jack’s in Cleveland.

But we know. And so we tell our kids these stories in the car on the way to see her. And we tell our kids these stories in the car on the way home from seeing her.

Because that’s who we want them to remember.

That’s who *I* want to remember.

That’s who she’d want us to remember.

I KNOW.

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  1. I’m so sorry you are all going through the disease together.

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    Comment by Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] on January 3, 2011
  2. so sad. I’m sorry :(

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    Comment by rayli on January 3, 2011
  3. I’m so sorry.. Cherish those sweet memories. xo

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    Comment by Chrissi on January 3, 2011
  4. You’re right, she totally wants you to share those stories, because she’d be sharing them if she could. Sharing stories is so very important.
    My heart aches for the loss of your Grandma, especially since she’s still there. You’re good to go visit, as hard as it is. Hugs Ali.

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    Comment by monstergirlee on January 3, 2011
  5. Somewhere, deep inside herself, she knows that you know. Her heart is the same heart that was beating when those stories were reality. Her heart, her soul, they know. She remembers you in there.

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    Comment by Momo Fali on January 3, 2011
  6. I’m crying. I don’t know what else to say but sorry.

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    Comment by mommabird2345 on January 3, 2011
  7. Oh Ali. I’m so sorry. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease and it’s so difficult to watch someone else struggle with it and be helpless.

    You can remember for her, your kids can too. And hopefully some day we’ll learn from people like your Grandma and be able to help others remember too.

    xoxo

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    Comment by Overflowing Brain on January 3, 2011
  8. Alzheimer’s is a shitty disease! My grandmother had it and the last time I saw her was the saddest time ever. I understand. XOXO

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    Comment by AmazingGreis on January 3, 2011
  9. I’m so sorry, Ali. I wish I had more to offer… just sympathy and support. My heart is aching for you guys.

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    Comment by becca on January 3, 2011
  10. This disease, in all honestly, terrifies me. I am sorry your grandmother is in the grips of it. I’m sorry you’re feeling it, too. My heart is raw.

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    Comment by foradifferentkindofg on January 3, 2011
  11. That’s so so sad!
    But the $1.47 – that’s really funny. Is there a story behind that?

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    Comment by adina on January 3, 2011
  12. Adina! How have I never told you this story? It’s such a good one. At our wedding, she pulled me aside and told me she had a very special gift for me – AND JUST ME – and I wasn’t to share it with anyone.

    I totally assumed it was a necklace or something. Instead, she handed me $1.47 in Canadian coins and walked away.

    To this day, I still have NO IDEA WHY ON EARTH SHE DID THAT.

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    Comment by ali on January 3, 2011
  13. I am new to your blog. Was not expecting this type of post. Will have tissues on hand from now on.
    My grandma had Alzheimers too. It is a horrible disease for involved. Good luck to you and your family and hold tight to the good memories. Get everyone to write them down.

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    Comment by Rachel on January 4, 2011
  14. While it was not Alzheimer’s, my grandmother was the proud recipient of something called Dementia. People think it’s just like the HIV of Alzheimer’s (seriously, I kept hearing that that is what it starts out as), but it’s not. TO this day I’m sure that her iron anaemia is one of the contributing factors to her getting the disease, but I’m sure there are others.

    My grandmother and grandfather practically raised me, so when I see (or saw) them succumbing to the frailty of old age it made me sad. By the time my grandma passed I was so done with the crying that I didn’t cry at her funeral – I had to force myself to do it, because everyone else was.

    I thought I was done with the crying, too, until I found a picture of her in a baby book of mine this past Christmas season and I just started sniffling when i saw her – holding my sister as a baby, helping me with presents… NOW I start crying when i see a picture of her.

    But truth be told, she was gone before she was GONE. It’s terrible to see a woman who touched the minds of so many (she was a teacher) deteriorate until SHE isn’t left. It hurts not to cry when she goes because what left was a shell of her former self.

    *sigh*

    I’ve gone off on a bit of a rant, I do apologize. But I miss her.

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    Comment by Maryann on January 4, 2011
  15. This breaks my heart, I’m so sorry.

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    Comment by J from Ireland on January 4, 2011
  16. I just have to believe that on some deep level–deeper than the mind– she recognizes love.

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    Comment by Karen on January 4, 2011
  17. This is such a wonderful story. Your grandmother sounds like a great lady. I lost my grandfather to AD a few years ago and went through the same thing. Thank you for sharing. I personally take comfort in knowing that my grandfather lived a long happy life, I hope you can do the same.

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    Comment by Cas on January 4, 2011
  18. I know exactly what you mean. Did you ever read this post of mine?
    http://www.avitable.com/2009/0.....lzheimers/

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    Comment by Avitable on January 4, 2011
  19. Beautifully written. So many of my own memories of my grandmothers, who both has Alzheimer’s, came flooding back. Thank you for stepping outside your comfort zone to share.

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    Comment by Kellylou on January 4, 2011
  20. This was beautiful, Ali. Simply beautiful. I am so sorry you are going through this.

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    Comment by Brittany on January 4, 2011
  21. Beautiful. Beautiful. I miss my Mimi so much. I could’ve written the same thing. I cried with joy the day she died because I knew then that she would remember everything again. Love to you all.

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    Comment by Jana A on January 4, 2011
  22. Oh, Ali, I’m so sorry. Both my Grandma (dad’s mom) and my husband’s Grandpa are deep in dementia and it is heartbreaking. I just can’t stand the idea that they are so lost within their own heads which makes them just so lost. Lots of hugs to you and yours.

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    Comment by pgoodness on January 4, 2011
  23. I’m so sorry your family is going through this. :(

    My great grandmother had dementia. She regressed to the behaviour of a three year old: she had temper tantrums, would spit at you if she didn’t like what you were saying, and would mess her pants (and then hide them in her dresser drawer).

    The only person she knew all the time was my great grandfather – they were married a month shy of 69 years. When he passed away, my poor aunt had to explain to Great Grannie where “Dad” was every single morning. She didn’t last 3 months without him.

    These diseases are awful, horrible things. Sending love.

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    Comment by Chibi Jeebs on January 4, 2011
  24. That disease is so hard on everyone. Kudos to you for still visiting her. It is terribly hard to visit the shell of the person you know. Be strong – keep remembering.

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    Comment by Cort on January 4, 2011
  25. This post pulled at my heart. I am so sorry for you and your family. Just know in your heart she knows you and loves you very much.

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    Comment by Jana on January 4, 2011
  26. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. This disease is so debilitating and sad. When my Gram was sick in the summer, she had bouts of dementia and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to witness.

    Hugs to you! xoxo

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    Comment by Kristabella on January 4, 2011
  27. I’m sorry Ali. I have been through exactly what you are going through with 2 of my grandma’s. Both passed but it really is such heart wrenching disease! I am actually working on an indie about Alzheimer’s. All the proceeds are going to benefit family and loved ones that have been affected by this disease! I will keep you updated sugar! HUGS! My heart goes out to you and your family!

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    Comment by Jessi on January 4, 2011
  28. I know this, remember for both of you. I remember my Grammy as she was, perfect.

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    Comment by Rachel on January 4, 2011
  29. So sorry Ali!

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    Comment by slynnro on January 4, 2011
  30. Ali my Gramma doesn’t have Alzheimer’s but she is also fading. She spent Christmas at my dad’s house and the next day didn’t know she’d been there. She’s not who she was. I just want you to know that you’re not alone, and I’m sorry that the wonderful lady you knew as your Gramma isn’t there anymore. xoxo

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    Comment by Amy on January 5, 2011
  31. Shitty barely even begins to describe this awful disease! Thankfully it sounds as though you have plenty of good memories to hold on to.

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    Comment by Jen on January 5, 2011
  32. You’re all in my heart. It’s a painful, painful disease to watch take over a loved one. My step-mom’s mother has Alzheimer’s, and I still remember, to this day, her asking my Grandad who he was and why was he in her room…

    I love you!

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    Comment by sam {temptingmama} on January 5, 2011
  33. I’m so sorry. My grandpa had Alzheimer’s and it is so painful for everyone involved. It’s a sad disease :(

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    Comment by Bethany on January 6, 2011
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    Comment by authentic discounted on January 10, 2011
  35. My 62 year old Mom has early onset dementia. The mother I knew and remember is long gone replaced by someone who does not talk nor does she remember me. I try to remember the happy mother I used to know. She is so young and it makes me mad.

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    Comment by Jen on January 12, 2011
  36. My Grandma taught Latin and Math for years. She’s an incredibly intelligent person. I think that makes her Alzheimer’s that much more heartbreaking.

    I listen to the Dixie Chick’s song “Silent House” when I want to let out a good cry. It was written about her grandmother with this disease. Totally hits home. Hugs to you.

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    Comment by Liz on January 14, 2011
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