We had the honor of celebrating my grandfather’s birthday yesterday… how lucky am I to have my grandfather still, alive, and well… only, he’s sort of missing. You see, my grandfather has dementia and as you may know by the clinical term, his memory is failing, disappearing into the distance, further and further away. I wonder where he goes? When I sit with him, in the flesh, I see my grandfather, I feel his presence, he is there. He looks up and recognizes me, or at least I think he does, then he disappears. I get my hopes up time and time again, although I am fully aware of this degenerative disease overtaking like a weed. It sucks! There is no beautiful or kind way to describe it. Life isn’t always beautiful, no matter how much one may try to see it that way. It can be cruel, just look around… both in and out of our control, tragedy and misfortune in varying degrees touch all of us if we live long enough, if we live at all really.
I find myself getting angry and frustrated at this demon named dementia.. how cruel, and why would you pick my grandfather who by all right and merit has lived his life right? What did he do to deserve this cruelty?? He worked hard, he was always honest, he was simple, he was kind, he was a committed father, and never once did he waver on what choice to make between right and wrong. He was loyal…. so why?
I write about this today and share it openly because it is something that has rocked me to my core. I am aware of time, sweet precious time, and I am scared to death…frightened that I will never have enough of it with those I love. But you know, although my grandfather cannot function as he once did… what he has left is really something worth remembering and something I believe, deep in his mind and in his heart, he knows. I look at my father’s family, his siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, my siblings, my cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, and niece… I am reminded that my grandfather is in fact present and accounted for in each of them. There is not one member of my grandfather’s family that wouldn’t sacrifice of themselves for another… really beautiful human beings to their core and hearts of gold. I am so proud of my heritage on both sides of the coin… from my mother and father. I could write chapters and novels for all I hold dear… today, my focus is on my disappearing grandpa.
If you have experienced dementia or any debilitating illness you know what I am talking about, you understand the pain… it’s like death happening over and over again each and every day. I am so sorry to each of you that has endured such grief! How did you do it? How did you handle it? I want to know. I try to be there for my grandfather, my family… try to find peace or comfort along the way… I am not sure I am succeeding but I try all the same. The pain in my aunts and uncles’ eyes hurts me… I want to tell them it’s okay… but I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to see your father this way. So, I just exist and show up and in this nagging and painful way, it bonds us.
That is what I felt and saw yesterday at my grandfather’s birthday celebration… we were all there, existing, together, somewhere between life and death, yesterdays and today. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring but that we are all there together, in our own individual way. That is what it means to me in this particular experience to find a way to “go beautifully,” to just show up, to be present, and to cherish each and every thought, memory, and day.
Thank you for the love grandpa, thank you for the example you have been to all of us. Thank you for being the patriarch of a family forged of great love, hearts, and kind human beings. Because of you… and one day I hope you are able to remember and know the depths of our love for you. I hope you will be proud of the life you lived and the family trying to do the same.
Happy Birthday, 4/30/30… a beautiful day in history.
Thank you for letting me share something so deeply raw and painful with you today… I wrote a poem, I’d like to end with:
I wonder where you go when your mind wanders
Do you see yourself as a child full of life and energy
Do you feel the lips of your first kiss, so innocent and sweet
Do you remember your father’s guidance or the depth of your mother’s love
Do you laugh with your brothers and sisters, reminiscing on youth behooved
Do you remember how it felt, the day your first son was born
Are there glimpses of your life – maybe snipits or snapshots
Are you in there hiding – trying to be found
I hope you are not hurting, feeling lost, or scared, unloved
Trust me, you are still surrounded by our love
Do you see a man who lived with vigor, tenderness, and loyalty
As you glance my way, can you see me
As our eyes meet, and I catch a glimpse into your soul, I wonder now…
Do you remember, do you know just how much you mean to me?
All my love and to all of our cherished memories… Happy 87th, I love you grandpa!
p.s. Do something today worth remembering! xo