The thing about alzheimer is it comes in waves, slowly, then all at once.
One minute you’re the world to them and the next you’re no more than a stranger.
Growing up with my grandmother was the best thing that ever happened to me. She was both my mother and father, a friend, a shoulder to cry on, but a teacher first and foremost. She taught me everything I needed to know: from cooking and sewing to basic life skills.
I didn’t have much growing up, but she still made sure I had the type of childhood that every little girl deserves. My princess skirts were fashioned out of newspaper, tiaras from tabs of can glued to a hairband, and magic wands were made from tree branches and little plastic stars. I remember for my 7th birthday we couldn’t afford a cake so she put a layer of icing on a 10x10x10 cardboard box. And that was my birthday cake. That was my 7th birthday: eating icing and blowing out 7 match sticks.
March 8, 2015 was the day she was diagnosed with alzheimer’s and I have yet to grasp the fact that this will dictate our future.
The first time I spoke to her since the diagnosis was over the phone. She asked me how I was doing, told me that she loves me and misses me, and asked when I’ll be graduating from university. I told her all about my day and what I’ve been up to and then it happened. Three words that pierced a hole straight through my heart. She interrupted me and asked, “Who is this?”
One second I was her granddaughter, and the next I was nothing but a stranger. And then it hit me: this is how it’s going to be now. There will be no warnings, nor anyone to tell me the exact time she’ll stop being lucid and switch to a complete alternate reality, in which she’ll be living only in little snippets of her past.
That’s the thing about developing alzheimer’s: one only has room for few, specific memories. They’ll try to hold onto these memories as much as possible, but in doing so, they end up forgetting that anything else ever existed. In my grandmother’s case, the last memories she has is when she was in her mid-30s.
This is what it feels like to lose someone to alzheimer’s. To lose someone so dear to this disease. My grandmother was always the soft ground waiting for me to fall back on. She was the person who caught me whenever I was falling. And now that she’s gone, it feels like I’m in a constant state of free fall. There will be no telling when I’ve hit rock bottom because this, right now, is the ultimate rock bottom. And there’s nothing I can do or say to make things better except hold her hand and cry myself to bed at night.