I haven’t talked about this much, but it’s been weighing heavily on me today. My grandfather, the man who is and has always been my hero, was recently placed in a nursing home because of Alzheimers and dementia. It’s been coming for a while, and this past Christmas, for the first time, he didn’t know who we all were. A couple of days ago, he didn’t know who my grandmother (his wife of over 65 years) was. He knew they were married, but didn’t know her name.
My grandfather has always been our families rock. He served 26 years in the United States Air Force, starting in Korea and serving through Vietnam. He then retired, and went to work for the San Angelo Independent School District as the Maintenance Supervisor, working there until he was able to retire again. Then, at the ripe young age of 63, he and my grandmother bought a 150 acre ranch and starting running cattle. In his words, “If I quit working, I’ll just lay down and die.”
Most of my summers growing up were spent with my grandparents, either traveling, or working on their small farm, and later the ranch. We went to the McDonald Observatory, Carlsbad Caverns, rode horses in the Fort Davis Mountains, walked inside of giant dinosaur prints, fished off of cliffs at Robert E Lee lake, and so much more. He taught me how to fish, how to hunt, how to water ski. He taught me how to swing a hammer, how to walk on ceiling joists, how to dig postholes, how to rewire light switches. He even let me electrocute myself doing that last one, to teach me to never trust anyone else that the electricity was off (and I’ve never electrocuted myself since).
About 15 years ago, I got myself into some trouble. And the worst consequence of that, by far, was the look in my grandfather’s eyes. I knew that I had disappointed the one man I admired most in the world. And then, when I worked my ass off to get my life back together, and I heard the words, “I’m proud of you, Jeremy”, I knew that I had vindicated myself.
My grandfather is everything I have ever wanted to be. When my wife and I got married, they had been married for 58 years. I told my wife, “That’s what I want. I want to be with you for 58 years, like them. But the day after our 58th anniversary, I’ll be in my 80s and I’m gonna go find me some hot young 60 year old.”
(Just a joke Jennifer)
And now, at 87 years old, the man I have tried to emulate, is mostly gone. He is still there, but what makes him “him” is not there anymore. And it’s breaking my heart to watch it.
So why am I telling you this? Because I know that many of you have been there, or are there right now. And as always, I want us to be helping each other. I want the person reading this to know that they aren’t alone. You can talk to me. I even created a Facebook group for Alzheimers Families called The Long Goodbye. https://www.facebook.com/groups/368340660689639/
And as always, feel free to email me at email@example.com if you want to share your story.
Please join us. We are here for each other. And do yourself a favor. Go spend some time with your relatives. Ask them about their lives. Create memories. Because one day, your memory of them may be all you have left.
Think About It…