“Come here little puppy, don’t you wanna come see a nice old lady? Why aren’t you coming? Get! Come on, get over here. Aren’t you learning anything?! GET OVER HERE!” I hear my Gran yelling at the stuffed dog that sits so innocently on the table across from her. Its dull, beady eyes stare into nothingness, and the fake, black fur sticks out at uneven angles. “Why are you on the table anyway? Don’t you know your manners? I’ll send Poppa after you, Buckshot.” She pleads with the stuffed animal to come to her. “I’ll teach you a lesson. Oh don’t give me that face.” She’s starting to soften up. I guess the dog’s face has changed. All for the better. If that went on longer I would’ve had to intervene somehow. “I thought I told you to get over here.” Oh great it’s started again. This happens everyday. My Gran tells things to come to her, puts things in places where they will be happier. She hides things from the rest of us if she’s in a bad mood, but loves us no matter what. The reason my Gran does all of these things isn’t because she’s always been like that. No way, she used to be the smartest person that ever existed. Something’s stealing that from her, she’ll never get it back. My Gran, who I love and adore, has Alzheimer’s.
* * * *
I first noticed that there was something wrong with my Gran when she would forget my name, or accidentally call me someone else. There would be the occasion where she would say, “Pass the sugar, Alison.” and I would say, “I’m Renae.” and she would remember. It killed me to see the Gran that was always correcting me, and teaching me things to be so forgetful. She forgot how to drive and she always repeated things. It soon got to the point where she didn’t know what she’d done that day. The repetitiveness gets to me the most. It’s hard to stay focused when she’s nattering all of the time. My family and I stay up in Swan a lot and I’m usually the first up. One morning I went into the kitchen and Gran was sitting at the kitchen table looking at placemats full of pictures of pioneers and their life. She called me over to her and in great detail explained each picture to me and exactly who was in it. It was all about her family. I played along with her even though I could see the copyright in the corner by a company in Toronto. Once she was done she put the placemats in a neat pile in front of her and took a sip of coffee. I started to get up to get breakfast but before I could push my chair in she said, “Why don’t you sit back down I have something important to show you. You might just learn something.” I stat back down and she reached out in front of her and pulled the placemats back in front of her. She went form picture to picture and explained them all in great detail, but this time each picture was something different. She didn’t remember that she had showed this to me before and she couldn’t remember what she had said about them. I spent the next hour and a couple minutes listening to her tales and adventures shown in each of the pioneers’ pictures and each time it was different.
I was practically falling asleep until someone else woke up and I could finally escape to eating my breakfast. Although when I think back on it now, it was pretty funny. But along with being funny it breaks my heart to see my respected Gran dwindle away like that. It bored me to pieces and I wanted to escape not only from the boredom, but from the fact itself. My Gran was like a 3 year old, reading the pictures, not the words, telling a story that she made up herself. It just wasn’t right, not right at all.
* * * *
“Isn’t the sun hurting your eyes? You poor little chap. Why don’t I move you over here, Buckshot? That’ll make it all better.” My Gran has now forgotten that the stuffed dog had deliberately disobeyed her just minutes before her nap, but now awake, the poor thing has sun in its eyes. “Now isn’t that better? Now you can see. You don’t like it here? And why not? Oh I see, the sun will be here next as well. I’ll just move you across the room.” She gets up and picks the dog up carefully as if it really is alive. She carries it across the room muttering to it and patting it gently. She sets it down on the couch and she sits down right beside it. Her big, real-live lab walks over to her and places his head on her lap. He had been laying beside her other chair while she slept before, but was awakened by her talking. “Now if I could just figure out how to turn this damn television on.” I cringe when I hear Gran swear. She never ever used to do that and looked down on people who swore. Now she used it all the time. I can never get used to hearing swears come from her mouth. I watch as she fiddles with the wrong remote and I switch the TV on
without her seeing me, using the right remote. “There we go, I told you I could do it, Buckshot.” She says to Sparky her big lab. “I don’t understand why Lloydie got this thing anyway, there’s too many buttons.” Of course she’s talking about the satellite remote. She doesn’t recognise it. She only remembers that she hates it, so that sticks in her brain. She calls everything Buckshot and she uses her pet name for my Poppa all the time now. Names have turned out to be a real problem, so has coordination. I noticed that a while ago too.
* * * *
There was a knock at the door and I ran down the hall knowing my Poppa would be waiting, a grin on his face. I opened the door only to find a raccoon hidden in an old woman’s body. My Gran’s face stared at me, but her eyes were surrounded by huge purple disgustingly yellow swollen black eyes. Her eyes seemed like little bugs peeping through at me. “Hello Alison … er Shannon … Trish … oh hi Renae.” She speaks fine, but those black eyes are killing me. What the heck happened to her! I know my Poppa wouldn’t have hit her because he is the kindest person you will ever meet. He was voted Church angel by his congregation and he helps everyone without a fuss. It was definitely not him, but then what was it? Just then he comes up behind her and says, “Have you noticed your grandmother’s new makeup, Renae?” There’s a twinkle in his eyes and I know that she is alright now. “Yes, aren’t I beautiful?” says Gran and she obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about. She puckers her lips and tries to gracefully bat her eyelashes, but all that I can see is her purple eyelids close upon her yellow under eye. “As beautiful as any pageant queen,” I remark uncertainly. Poppa looks at my approvingly and my insides beam. I love impressing him. He’s the one thing that matters to me as much as my parents. He is so strong for an eighty year old
and only quit waterskiing last year. I love his hugs and as he comes towards me now, he whispers in my ear, “Your grandmother fell down our whole flight of stairs at one o’clock in the morning. It was two nights ago and she has bruises everywhere. She’s doing fine now, thank the Lord, but her coordination is going. Try to be careful with her.” I feel like crying and assure him that I will be the perfect little angel I always am and shoot him a sideways grin.
I can’t believe it. My Gran fell down a whole flight of stairs and they have over 15 stairs that lead down to the basement. It’s a wonder it’s only bruising. She really is getting worse and as the feeling sinks in, so does the hurt and I rush to my parents’ room to tell them who’s here. As soon as that’s done I go to the bathroom and cry. I cry for my Gran, but also Poppa. He shouldn’t have to deal with this, shouldn’t have to worry all the time. He shouldn’t have to go looking for important things because Gran has tried to keep them safe. He can’t even find her wedding ring for goodness sake. And now this. She’s going to be falling down those stairs all the time now. What will he do? What will happen to her? I hate Alzheimer’s! I hate it! I scream at my insides and I yell through my mind at the Alzheimer’s. Why are you doing this?!
* * * *
I walk over to my Gran who is calmly watching Jeopardy which is the channel that I thought would be good for her to watch. I watch out for her, try to keep her in a good mood. I’m not stupid; I know what the best medicine is. Love. I sit down right beside her, grab her hand and lean my head against her shoulder. At least this is the same, her shoulder hasn’t changed one bit. It’s still soft to rest on and I can still feel the warmth of her love for me spreading through it. Who cares if she can’t remember my name, she knows that she loves me. “That’s a nice little paddy-paw.” she whispers. I almost cry because I love Gran. She doesn’t deserve this. I hate seeing her dwindle away like this, but I’ll help her in any way that I possibly can. “That’s a nice Gran.” I whisper back and I see her smile at me as she kisses the top of my head. She strokes my head the way she had just been petting the stuffed dog and I squeeze her hand and let out,” I love you Gran. with all of my heart,” and its true. I do love her with my whole entire heart. She repeats to me over and over as we watch the rest of the show, “I love you, I love
you…I love you. With all my heart, I love you.”