I don’t talk a lot about my family because, while they are precious to me, their presence online should be their’s to control. That and there are some things that I believe everyone should keep just for themselves. My family is something I only provide limited access to, because I want them to decide how little or how much they are associated with my social media presence.
This is one of those rare moments of sharing for me, one that is necessitated by a need to organize my thoughts in a way that doesn’t seem as cruel as it does in my head.
It started with a phone call…
I rarely talk on the phone. Unlimited minutes means nothing to me. However, a few nights ago my dad called me at 10pm. My dad is usually sleep by 9:30, so my immediate thoughts are: “What’s wrong?”
He starts of asking how my first day at work went. I got off at 4:30 that day, so I knew it really wasn’t about my job. Of course, most first days are a lot like orientation days in college. We didn’t really do much real work. We got benefit packages, filled out paperwork, and watched presentation after presentation. Nothing special. Finally, I bucked up and asked.
“Dad, what’s wrong?”
Silence. Not the He’s not even listening to me silence, but the silent crying kind of silence.
If there is one thing that guaranteed to break me down is the sound of my dad crying. I’ve only heard it one other time and it ripped at my soul. I hate it. However, in that moment I knew what was wrong. My Nana.
My dad is an only child of a single parent. When he was born he was almost 4 months early and weighed 2lbs. In the 60’s that was a really big deal. Medicine wasn’t what it is today. They did what they could for him, but in the end they handed him off to my Nana and told her that he would have a hard fight. She nursed him from 2lbs to the 6’1″ *garbles weight* man he is today. His only “health” issue growing up? He needed glasses. Not bad, right?
The A word.
Recently they had taken her to the hospital because, despite her diabetes, she wasn’t taking her meds or eating right. My dad, being here in GA, couldn’t do much while she is in Texas, but he eventually got her the help she needed.
It was during her hospital stay that the doctor called and gave my dad the news. She has Alzheimer’s and needs to be moved to a facility that can ensure she takes her meds and eats. I think what bothers my dad the most is that his mother is stubbornly independant. She likes to do as she pleases, when she pleases, and not a moment sooner.
Slowly Losing Her
Earlier this year I decided to dedicate my next book to her. Not that I ever thought she would read it. It’s not exactly her thing and that’s okay. Still, I wanted to shout my love for her in italicized font to whoever may read Heart of a Rocky. I want everyone to know that I love my Nana. She is fierce, funny, and sometimes a little mean.
Funny the things you start to remember when age and mortality creep up on you. The oppressively hot summers at her house, ice cream before bed as she watched the Houston Astros, her sucking on peppermint candy while she worked on one of her crossword puzzles.
Funny how hard it hits when you realize you’re slowly losing them.
I write about the deaths of my characters and many of them strike me hard, but in reality I have been blessed to not been touched by death in such a close way. Yet, with this peace of news, I know. Death is coming. When or how soon, we don’t know, but he’s marching this way and somewhere on its list is my Nana’s name and all I can think about is how unnecessarily cruel it is.
I’m not the type to wonder the whys of Death. It’s necessary. Not a necessary
evil. Death comes for us all and I know that one day my Nana’s and all those I love will one day meet their end.
The cruelty I feel is for my dad. He is watching his only parent, the woman he loves above all else, slip away. And she will keep slipping until one day she will look up and not know the face of the man who looks eerily like the little boy she raised. She won’t recognize the boy she raised into the man. That one day, the only parent he has, will look at him and not know him at all.
The cruelty isn’t that Death comes. The cruelty is that this one is being dragged out. To me, it would be far kinder for Death to come so that the man I know and love above all other men wouldn’t have to endure a long road of suffering. That the final memories he will have of her won’t have to be the confused gaze of a woman who doesn’t even know who he is.
And it is that thought that I feel may seem cruel to some. How can I not want for more moments? More time? More…everything?
I want all of that, but I know that ultimately what I want is irrelevant. My Nana has said for years she is tired–not sleepy–tired. Of life. That wasn’t a moment of depressed thoughts, just the feelings of a woman who has had a long and hard road.
I want her to have that peace and I want my dad to avoid that pain that I see coming as surely as we are slowly losing her.
Know anyone with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s? To get more information check out the Alzheimer’s Association.
Also, check out Stefan Merrill Block’s A Place Beyond Words: The Literature of Alzheimer’s in The New Yorker. It’s everything I hope to understand and the place I hope to eventually get to when it comes to my view on Alzheimer’s.