Posted by: baptistthinker | September 17, 2011

Love and Alzheimer’s and Pat Robertson

A couple of days ago, Pat Robertson made some statements on Alzheimer’s, that were particularly troubling to me. I say “to me”, because my grandfather on my father’s side had this disease. I remember him receiving the diagnosis when I was around 12 or 13 years old. I didn’t understand much about it at that time, I only knew that grandpa was acting strangely. He and grandma would sit out in front of their house on nice evenings, and suddenly grandpa would stand up, grab his lawn chair, and tell grandma he was going home. And he’d proceed to wander around the neighborhood. Grandma was deaf, and lipread, and she would have to fire up the TTY machine, and call us via an operator who would read what she was writing and tell us what grandma was saying. And we’d drive over to their neighborhood, and convince grandpa to go back to the house. I remember, at church, grandpa would forget people’s names. Even mine. And I didn’t understand why, other than “the disease was making it happen”. After a while, on Sunday evenings, I would have to stay at grandma’s house and watch grandpa, so she could go to church. Or I’d have to go over during the week, and watch him, so she could go shopping. After a while, grandpa no longer knew who I was. He’d talk to me, and say “hey boy, go do this”. He’d mistake the recliner for a car, and start trying to work on it and get the motor running. Or he’d think he was back in the war, and he’d wander around the house “looking for blood and steel”. When I got my driver’s license, I’d drive over to grandma’s, and pick her up to take her shopping, while my younger brothers stayed with grandpa.

Grandpa’s disease caused him to forget everybody. Eventually, due partly to an overdose of his medication by the doctor, grandpa became largely bedridden. I remember grandma would shave his face, and comb his hair. She’d change his diaper. She never complained. She would sit with him, and tell him about her day. He usually didn’t hear her. Or recognize her. I’d see grandma cry sometimes. She missed him, greatly. The Mother’s Day before he died, my father and aunts were taking grandma to Mother’s Day lunch, and I was supposed to stay with grandpa. And grandma went into the room where grandpa lay, as she always did. And she said “the kids are taking me to lunch, I’ll be back.” And for the first time in a long time, grandpa looked up at her with recognition in his eyes, and he said “Can I come too?” And grandma cried. Lunch was put on hold, because grandma couldn’t compose herself to go out. When grandpa died, I think a part of her died as well. Shortly after, it was discovered that she had cancer. She had put so much into caring for grandpa, that she hadn’t been to the doctor much in years. Shortly after finding out she had cancer, about nine months, grandma passed away.

When I think of Alzheimer’s, I automatically think of love. Because that was what my grandmother modeled for me. She loved grandpa so much. She cared for him, every day. She didn’t complain, she just did what she felt was her duty. She was a Christian woman, in love with a man she had been with for years. I simply can’t understand, how you can love someone for so long, and then decide to abandon them because they have Alzheimer’s. There is a right way, and a wrong way, to deal with a spouse having Alzheimer’s. Pat Robertson has told us the wrong way. My grandmother chose the right way. And the man you will hear in this next video, also chose the right way.

This country song, reminds me of my grandmother. It illustrates so much what she went through, during all those years.

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