He knows- My grandfather’s brave struggle with Alzheimer’s

This morning I woke up physically ill to the point where I had to push back a meeting originally scheduled for this morning to tomorrow thereby making tomorrow’s task list.. a doozy to say the least.  But at least a lot got accomplished and is in process.  Life is an ever evolving (hopefully) series of self processes.

After I went back to bed I woke up only a few minutes later to a phone call from my father:

“Do you want to talk to your grandfather?”

At not even 8am I knew that dad must have finally made his vacation to visit them.  Despite the illness, I obliged… always ready and happy to hear anything I can from my grandparents especially at this most delicate time.

“What are you doing right now?” my grandfather said.

“I’m in bed right now..”

“Is the sun shining?”

“I think so.  Pretty sure.  But I’m in bed right now what are you doing?”

“It’s early there huh?  You don’t sound well.  Are you sick?”

“I’ll live.  What are you guys up to?  When did dad get there?”

“We’re at a graveyard visiting people.  I don’t know when your dad got here.  I don’t remember..”

“You’re where?!”

I got frustrated.  What the hell was my father doing taking my dying grandparents to a graveyard?  I understand the desire to pay his respects to those lost and now in their plots back home but…

and my grandparents, as well as my dad, already have their spots waiting for them.  Potentially in that graveyard.  It made me feel more ill and upset when I even attempted to stomach it.

I would have to talk to my dad about it later.  Just another gap in a huge communication issue.  I couldn’t say anything about it to grandpa.    And even if I did, he probably wouldn’t be in a position to really hear it to understand.

“It’s sunny here and it stopped raining.  We’re just visiting people for a few minutes.  Do you remember Pat Cole?  She played the organ at church.  I remember that lady.  I don’t remember much these days but I remember her.  Or I think I do.”

Pat Cole was ancient when I was a kid.  What I remember was her house being a cluttered mess and always smelling of smoke and formaldehyde.  I remember as a kid that I used to joke that she was already a zombie.  I couldn’t tell grandpa that either though.  I didn’t want to come across as being rude.

“Now we’re in the car going to get your cousin some clothes.  She doesn’t have enough.  We’re going to get her some more…”

I could go onto a tangent about this cousin and that part of the family alone but that’s another one “for another blog”.  Let’s just keep things at my grandfather for now.

“How are you enjoying Ethan being there?”

Grandpa laughed.  You could hear his smile through the phone.  Ethan is his first grandson.  You can almost tell he has a special spot for him.

“He’s a really great kid.  Really really great kid.  Smart little bugger.”

“How are you and gram doing?  Is dad taking you to doctors and things?”

He then went down another path.

“My memory isn’t what it used to be.  I can tell.  I know that something just isn’t right.  I can’t remember what I used to remember easily.  I don’t know why but I just know it’s not right.  All I can do right now is try and make the most of what memories I have and hope these ones I’m making stay put.”

I think about the things my grandpa has told me over the past month over the phone.  Of the phone call I had when I was crying because I felt there was no one I could turn to that could get to my dad like they could… and him floating off into another world where he.. knows he’s barely here anymore.

I don’t know if all men or people in general go through that “knowing” period like he is.  There is a part of me that wonders if this will be my fate as well.  If all the magic that I learned about my grandparents was nothing compared to the magic and wisdom and honesty and compassion I am seeing coming from them in these, possibly their last years.

I don’t want to think about the visits to graveyards with end dates now placed on my grandparents’ headstone.  

I think about how much my grandfather seems to know what is happening and… how brave he is being throughout all of it.  Grandpa is known for being a bit of a cry baby at times… like when he was young and his semi truck got stuck going under the underpass and they had to let all the air out of the tires to get it through and he cried like a baby the whole time.

This wasn’t that guy.  This was… someone different.  Hell, maybe it was a guy who actually learned something throughout all of it.

Grandpa’s strength knowing this gives me hope.  Perhaps knowing and being scared isn’t as terrible as one may think.

Perhaps he already knows that he’s going to be immortal anyway…

Perhaps, because, he already is.

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In Remembrance: The Morgue is alive with words

Imageimage by Dan Simmons, Dan Simmons.com

Oh my dears.. there is so so much to tell you.  I fear that I have neglected you so.  I’ve hoarded my words.  I’ve stashed my thoughts away in a safe hidden place.

I don’t want to do that anymore.

At least… not the way I have been for months.

This is a forewarning to those who are faint of heart…

Things are about to get… very very real again on here.  Real beyond love stories.  Real and sometimes mundane.

I just want to tell these stories before they disappear.

Because unfortunately, my genetics are telling me that it may very well be my destiny.

Two sets of grandparents are currently undergoing this painful process that doctors call “The long goodbye.”  My grandmother on my mother’s side is farther along.  She is becoming a shell of the person she once was.  She barely remembers my mother or my aunts and uncles.  And, while she and I were never really close, nor me with my mother, I know that this is hurting the family around her who are close to her.

My grandfather on my dad’s side is also going through stages of Alzheimer’s.  Ironically, he is one of those unforgettable people.  He is the guy that is constantly making friends everywhere.  Who is the reason I probably talk so much.  Who… is one of my absolute favorite people (outside of my children) in the entire world (the other being his wife).

My heart is breaking as I am seeing one of the most wonderful and inspirational people-  slowly but surely forgetting more and more of his life… of his memories… of the beauty that he helped to show the world… that he gave to me… that….

I don’t want the world to disappear without knowing my stories anymore.

Granted, I’m not going to tell you everything.  If you want that, pick a lifecaster.  There are some things beautiful about sharing every single detail about ones life, and there are things beautiful in not.  I’m choosing a land of in between.  And that’s… ok.

It is my hope that you find something in these posts to bring you back again and again.  Perhaps it’s because of something inspiring.  Perhaps it’s just something silly.  Perhaps it’s comfort in mundane (oh how I wish some days to be more mundane).  But, if nothing else, I want these stories out there.  For the one day I can’t remember them.  For the chance that someone will. Because words are the way a person never truly dies.

—-

But until then, here are a bunch of silly pictures of tombstones.  Because there are enough posts coming up that you can be sad about and well, some of these images hopefully will help make you smile.  Note: none of these images are mine so please don’t sue me folks.

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Hard anniversaries- Mother’s Day

Something very very dreadful happened on Mother’s Day 2006. Today is not a happy day. Today, rather, is a bit of a time out. Of more time reflecting and thinking…
Not to run from the past, but forging forward through the battleground with a harder heart and thicker skin. Tomorrow the sun will shine and I will still be a mother. Who needs a day to dictate this being a hard journey?
Oh you have no idea. No idea.

So today I got hit by a car again…

Sad to say that I’m serious.
I was riding my bike on the way to do the one errand I had to do today, and some guy in an alley did not see me. It was pretty scary. I was riding and saw no one there so I didn’t slow down. Then I see this car coming at me.

I’m fine. He just tapped me. Guy felt really bad about it. I have one little scratch but nothing major.
I tried tweeting about it when I hopped the bus but Twitter was down.
Little things like that seem to happen to me. This isn’t the first time I’ve been hit by a car outside of a “normal” car accident… it’s actually the first time I got hit by a car that wasn’t mine.

Yes, you read that right.. I was hit by my own car once. It was a long time ago, and that accident was a bit worse. I actually ended up getting the emergency treatment and nearly broke my legs.

Backing up, here’s what happened before that:

My friend Robin is the angel of death to the series of cars I had when I lived back home. Why? Because the only and every time I had car problems there, she was in the car when it happened. Sure they were not the best of cars to begin with. Sure, my uncle thinks he really knows about cars but might not be the best at it. Sure it could purely just be coincidental. But 3 transmissions and every single one? Yeah right!

I went to 3 different high schools back home. I knew most everyone. If we went somewhere, I knew someone. It drove her nuts. We were trying to figure out plans for the night and couldn’t come up with anything. I reccomended winging it, thinking we’d go out and run into someone anyway who might know of something to do. Tonight, at last minute, she made it clear that she wanted to go somewhere specific.

It wasn’t far from home. And I love to drive. (I miss driving so much) So we got in the car and headed over there. At this point, she’s rushing me. I’m speeding anyway, and then I hear a thud. My transmission dropped.

Robin gives me this eye and I just shrug. I have to get this taken care of. I have to get it out of the middle of the road. I don’t have insurance and couldn’t afford to get it towed. I told her to get out and help me push the car into a parking lot. She huffs and moves.

Now, unbeknownst to me as to why she did it, she locks the doors. So little 4 ft nothing me and tall string bean blonde her are pushing my Lebaron out of the road. It’s night and the streetlights are on.

We hadn’t really thought about it, but the parking lot that we were pushing the car into was at an incline. So when we started pushing, of course it started to roll down the hill. Robin was at the top, and had stopped pushing. She saw the light shine on my car and screams “It’s going to hit another car!”

I tried to open my door to step on the brakes. However, she had locked the damn door. I was thinking oh fuck, I’m going to have a mess if my car hits another car… what do I do?
Logically, the only thing for me to do was jump in between them.
So I run in front of my car, and stand in front of this parked one. The car bounced off my legs and stopped. It did not hit the other car.

Robin looked at me shocked that I’d just done that. There were people in a place eating looking dumbfounded at me.

“Are you alright?!” she screamed at me.
“Yeah, what are you talking about? I’m fine.” I said. And then my legs gave out.

They called an ambulance and had me checked out. Miraculously, I did not break my legs. I’d just sprained them or something. The doctor gave me some Tylenol 3 with Codeine. I was wheeled out to the waiting room to my parents, Robin, and her parents.

Now as a sidenote, but a relevant one, Robin and I were regulars for Cosmic bowling every Saturday night from 12-2. We’d go there and then hang out at a 24 hour coffee shop and smoke ciggarrettes and have pie and conversation with a group of other friends. Most everyone that lived local and was in the circle went. We knew all the business owners by first name, and they noticed if we were even late, let alone didn’t go. Hell, they hit on us. We were 19 though, so it was a given.

When I came into the waiting room, Robin’s immediate reaction was “Oh man you’re not going to be able to go to Cosmic are you?”
Not- “Are you alright?”
“Glad that you’re alright.”
“Did you break anything?”
etc.
No. It was her whineing that I couldn’t go bowling that weekend.

I was still living with family at the time. Dad was house sitting for a friend who had a big property. There was a jacuzzi inside the house (a big deal for in IL). Robin called on Saturday to ask me how I was, and if I was even going to go. “You could always just getting a walking band and not bowl you know? Just tell your dad that. How are you feeling anyway?”

How was I feeling?
I was quite enjoying the medication and the hottub… my response was “I have no legs! I have no legs!” I was buzzed off my mind.

I called her back later and told her I’d figure out a way to go though. My dad was still overprotective then… hasn’t died down yet… probably never will. I told him I was just going to sit and watch and hang out with my friends. I’m sure my dad knew better, but he let me go anyway, so long as Robin was the one who drove this time and I didn’t bowl.

I dressed the way I normally do for the meat market, minus the wraps on my legs and the crutches.

Oh and for those people who think it’s “hickish” to be going bowling and call that a meat market, out in the burbs where I grew up, there weren’t those types. I lived about 30-45 mins away from Chicago.. not the boonies thank you very much. There were a few cute boys there.. I was a frequent dater there too. But those are different stories.

I went to get my band for the night and they asked “Playing or walking.” Then they looked up and saw my crutches. “Geezus what the hell happened Jen? Guess you’re getting a walking band then eh?”

I handed him my crutches, and said “No, fuck that. I’m playing. I’m not a sissy girl.” And I did.

People knew a little bit about what had happened. They came up to our table afterwards and asked me if it was true.
“Did you really get hit by your own car?”
“Yes, and I didn’t break my legs. That’s what’s makes me hardcore.”

Man was I such a dumb kid.
That stuff only happens in my family.

However today was scary. Thankfully it wasn’t that bad though and I’m fine.
/rant off