Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dear Alzheimer's Disease,

I don't think that I have properly thanked you. It is probably very rare that you get a note indicating someone's gratitude... however I am thankful for the gifts your illness has provided to my family.

In the 1980s my grandmother became very dissolutioned by her family. Her dedicated husband died too early and she was left a widower. She had two grown children with whom she developed a conflicted relationship with. It has been mused that my Pappa kept her grounded and reminded her about what was really important in life. But when he passed she edged closer and closer to a religion that encouraged her to disown her children (and by association she lost touch with several of her grandchildren). In the end she was estranged from both of her kids.

Despite being repeatedly rebuffed, my gramma's children persisted in contacting her. One fateful day my sister stopped in and was able to drive my gramma and her friend to a doctors appointment. It was there that we learned that my gramma had Alzheimer's disease. She was slowly forgetting the tasks of everyday life. Upon further investigation it was discovered that she had been in ill health for some time (as evidenced by the rotting food in her fridge & the gentleman who took hundreds of dollars from her each month for her church 'dues').

Gramma slowly forgot why she was estranged from her family. Or perhaps she remembered but recognised that they loved her and they would take care of her in her time of need. I like to think she chose to follow the genuine love her children harboured for her than the fear her religion used.

She does not remember who I am, she frequently calls me by my mother's name. This is too bad as I was her first grandchild and I have many fond memories of her up till the age of 7 or 8. However those are my memories now to keep. Sadly I also have the memory of her refusing to attend my wedding.

For all the heartache I am greatful that my Gramma has allowed us back into her life. Her son and daughter have been tireless in their care of her over the last four years and will continue to care for her with the same tenderness she showed them when they were young.

I do not want to underestimate the devastation that Alzheimer's wreaks on a family or an individual. But for my family it has been an opening for reconciliation.

Thank you.

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