My grandfather had Alzheimer’s. Even when his mind was long gone and he had become violent, my grandmother refused to put him in an assisted living facility. Sometimes he’d crawl up on their roof, reliving his days of being a war pilot. Other times, he’d angrily hit her. But she simply couldn’t let him go.
I don’t remember a time when grandpa didn’t have Alzheimer’s. In my pre-teen mind, I do remember wondering why grandma didn’t send him away. I was completely confused as to why she put up with his antics.
My husband’s grandmother has suffered from Alzheimer’s for quite some time. She has progressed further and further, now to the point of barely being able to remember things longer than a 10 minute period. We went to their home yesterday and she asked over and over about our son. Was he a boy or girl, what was his name, whose baby was he. I answered every question as though it was the first time she asked it, understanding that she was being her sweet self. She may forget everything else, but she remembers what it was like to be the mother to an infant.
As I watched her watch my son, I figured out why grandma couldn’t send grandpa away and why Chris’ grandfather can’t either.
In our youth, we see hospitals and assisted living as temporary. They make us better and we move on. For the elderly, hospitals and assisted living is permanent. It’s the end.
I saw his grandma through his grandpa’s eyes. No more Easter Sunday’s. No more holding hands after dinner. No more sitting side by side while watching the evening news. It won’t get better.
As I crawled in my bed last night, slipped my arm around my husband’s waist, and snuggled my face into the back of his neck, I realized I couldn’t say goodbye either. For the first time, I finally understood my grandmother’s decision. I’d want to hold on for as long as I could possibly hold on.