I watched you as a child. Reading your Bible almost every morning that I can recollect. I watched you do crossword puzzles with ease. It was so fun trying to help you solve those, by the way. I repeatedly combed your hair and pretended to be a beautician. Those things come to mind when I think of you.
I can remember the big breakfast you and my grandmother always made when I spent the night. It was so big, I had to take large bites. Yummy it was and so good to the taste, I helped you wash the dishes you used to make it in. Our trips to the grocery store in your Dodge car that was golden. Golden just like your heart. I loved sharing a bed with you when I was over for the night. Boy, how you did snore! It was a good thing I slept later than you because I really never slept well. You would have the windows out at night and I would find myself watching the curtains sway with the breeze blowing in. Yes, nighttime sleep was near impossible, but I loved it just the same. Those times were priceless.
When I first heard the you had Alzheimer’s I was devastated. I do not remember if I fully knew what all that meant for you, for me. I moved into your home to help ease the burden my grandmother had, trying to take care of you. It was not hard at first. Gradually things started to get harder and harder though. No more did you work in your crossword puzzles, no more reading your Bible or any other book for that matter. You stopped cooking because it had become a danger to you. Suddenly I was taking care of you. There would be no more you caring after me. It was my turn. my turn to try to repay your love for me for so many years. I often found myself fighting back the tears, trying to remain positive. I often told myself that no matter how difficult caring for you was, I could hang in there and do it. Sadly, the care was not enough. Things changed and it was time for you to go to a care facility, your sister, my grandmother and I could no longer do it on our own.
After you were in that rest home, I would find it very difficult to visit you and see you in that place. They pulled your teeth out and you were reduced to a liquid diet. If they knew that you loved food as much as I knew, they would had not done that. I thought that was sad. I remember you falling several ties out of bed because they failed to put your handrails up attached to your bed. Honestly that made me so mad I wanted to say something but my grandmother told me not to. She was afraid if we caused a stink they would kick you out and we had very few options. I saw on several occasions the other residence had been in your room. You were unable to defend yourself and they were rummaging through your things and taking them. I spoke to the attending nurse and she simply said that she could not be in your room twenty-four seven and keep things from happening like that. My thoughts were, “Then why do we pay you?”
It was really hard to see these things that happened to you. Your teeth were pulled out because you had no one to brush your teeth properly. Which is a terrible reason. You also had things stolen that we gave you. That was criminal. You were left in the same position for hours on end and never taken outside, unless I came and rolled you out. You really loved that sunshine on your face, too. I saw you go down hill so fast. I saw mistreatment given to you. It broke my heart. I still knew you could feel, and think inside your head, regardless of the Alzheimer’s. You were hard to visit near the end of your days. I knew that the old you was inside you and fighting to come out but your body betrayed you. I admit I simply quit visiting in the weeks before you died. I could not bear the thought of it all and see you so faded. I am sorry I was weak and not strong. I am sorry it was wrong of me to never come back. I’d give anything to have that one more sunlight on your face.
Alzheimer’s is terrible. Having it, robs you of your present memories, your joy, your personality. I watched it change my great-aunt into a mean, and hateful person. It was not her fault. It was the disease that did that to her. Now there is more research, more medicine, more knowledge but back in the eighties there was not much known about the disease. I wish my great-aunt had of had the tools we see today, in the treatment for Alzheimer’s.
In memory and honor of my Great Aunt, Camille.
Thanks for reading!