Monday, 10 February 2014

Remember Me When I No Longer Remember You

Watching someone you love deteriorate in front of you is painful.  

My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s just over a year ago and the past few months have been heart wrenching to see this once strong, determined and independent woman become a shell of her old self.  Now let me preface all this by saying, she is almost 90 and has certainly lived a full life but it still doesn’t make watching this any easier.  This is such a horrible, degrading, unapologetic disease and it affects the people around just as much. Yesterday, she struggled as I helped her put on a sweater and boots.  The simplest things we take for granted, like how to put our arms through a sleeve and slide our feet into shoes, was lost.  I also see how this has infiltrated my mother and her sibling’s lives.  How entrenched in my grandmother’s life they have become, taking care of her every need.  I see the frustration in their faces and despair in their hearts.  They get angry, they cry, they yell and they love because it is all they can do.  My grandmother still remembers us but can’t remember that she just spoke with you five minutes ago.  But there will come a time when she will look at our faces and not recognize that we are the ones that filled her life, caused her joy and felt her love. 

Both grandmothers were afflicted with this disease and it got me thinking that maybe this is what I have ahead of me, what my children will have to deal with when I am old and grey.  They are too young to fully understand what is happening to my grandmother right now and I don’t know if they will remember how it affected all of us.  I am using this post to write them a letter, one that hopefully they will never have to read, should the day come when I don’t remember them.

My beloved children,

I am writing this letter to many years before you will ever see it. The children I see in front of me today are young, vibrant and filled with a curiosity about the world that I hope will never end. This letter will be read by a man and woman, well into their mid lives, with families and responsibilities of their own; a man and woman of whom I am sure I will be proud.

My life has been filled with the overflowing love I have for you both. I wanted you before I knew you and now can’t imagine not knowing you. But alas, there may come a time when I look into your eyes and not recognize the twinkle that I have come to adore so much. There may come a time when I will think you are just two kind strangers who love me. I may not remember your laugh or your smile, what your name is or how wonderful our lives have been. What I want you to know is that you both have made my life complete, filled it with a joy and happiness that I could never have imagined. My love for you will always be in my heart even if I can’t remember it in my mind. It is out there, as energy, in the universe and you will always feel it, no matter what.

Should a time arise when I start forgetting all that my life has meant, I have but three wishes for you to remember.  Please remember all the times I have been patient with you and be patient with me.  Do not get angry with me or resent me for what I have become through old age.  It is not who I was, nor who I wanted to become.  Remember that I have lived my life for you and don’t expect you to live yours for me. Yes, I want you to spend time with me, love me and be gentle with me but I don’t want you to take care of me.  This is a burden I never want you to experience.  I want to leave this world with my dignity intact and yours not tarnished by having to bear witness to my deterioration.  And finally, don’t feel guilty for choices you are faced with where I am concerned.  Make them with love and stand by them, knowing that I would understand. I trust you both and know that the bond we have cemented throughout our lives will carry us through this difficult journey. 

I hope that there will never come a time when I don’t remember what our life together was like or how much I love you. I hope I am always aware of what you mean to me because the thought, today, of not remembering, tears my soul apart.
But for today, at least, I will remember.

Yours forever,

Mom
Talk to me!  The thought of forgetting all that my life was, scares me...maybe this is why I write.  How do you keep all your memories alive?

12 comments:

  1. Ouch! But beautiful.

    I face this, too. On both sides. *sigh*

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    1. Mine is both sides too. Scary thought but I hear that they have made leaps and bounds in the research here. Keep your mind healthy and active...and keep writing. Hugs!

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  2. Painful and poignant, Audrey. I'm so sorry you're grandmother is going through this. Sorry all of you are going through this. I'm sure this was tough to write. *hugs*

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    1. Thanks Beth, I feel bad for my grandmother. To live a full life and spend what is left like this is so unfair. The only upside is that she doesn't remember that her mind isn't working well now. When she would float between knowing and not knowing, it broke my heart more. What do you say to a woman who asks "what is wrong with my head?" Broke my heart. Hugs right back at 'ya!

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    1. to err is human....lol! i hate when that happens too!

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  4. I live this vicariously through your words and through my mother as she described my grandmother ... ( her mom who suffered as such ) .. I pray that they find a cure or at least a key to mitigate this awful awful ailment ... in hopes that others do not suffer as they grow older ..

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    1. Winfor ~ My mom was telling me that my grandmother's specialist said that they are really close to understanding how to combat this disease. They do have meds out right now that help stall the progress but after a certain point they seem useless. I am hoping and praying that a cure is around the corner.

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  5. I'm so very sorry to hear about your grandmother. Having lost 3 grandparents and 3 parents in a short of period of years I completely understand the pain that you're going through with your grandmother dealing with that wretchedly painful, brutal disease. Both my grandfather and father had Parkinson's and it mirrors Alzheimer's in several ways. That letter you wrote was beautiful. And I would tell everyone to get a legally binding court document, Last Will, Power of Attorney, etc etc so that everything is written down with no emotional debates to torment over. All my prayers to you and your's, Audrey...I can tell you're very strong inside :)

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    1. Thank you Mike. How horrible to lose so many in a short period of time. I don't know much about Parkinson's but I can imagine it is just as wretched. I agree with you regarding all legal binding documents in order well before any illness strikes. When I separated from my ex 10 years ago, these were the first documents I had prepared to protect myself and my children. I want to be the one who decides what happens and not put that burden on anyone else, least of all my children. Your words are kind Mike and I think I am a strong woman too but hearing them from someone who doesn't know me, makes me feel like I actually am. :)

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  6. I'm watching this with my own mother, who watched her mother, and have the same simultaneous conflicting feelings - compassion for my mother, anger at how unfair and horrific this is for her, fear that I am seeing my future before me, worrying about my children having to deal with what we're dealing with now. Looking for early warning signs. Not wanting to know. Speaking of typos, you might want to correct the one in the last line of the letter. I think you have an extra verb in it. Your kids will love you anyway, of course.;-)

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    1. Thanks for sharing Paula. It is a horrible thing to witness and I do wonder if this is what awaits me. All I can do, all any of us can do, is enjoy all the todays we have. Tomorrow will happen no matter how much we kick and scream. Thank you for pointing out the typo...all fixed...shouldn't write this after a long day at work and late at night :) Keep smiling and stay strong!

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