By Nicole Rhodes
I wake up every morning and I know where I am. I know who I am living with. I know what day it is. These are all things I used to overlook. I overlooked the simplicity and need of remembrance. I overlooked memories. I overlooked memory.
Until you live with or personally know someone who has a form of dementia, it is difficult to understand what it’s like. In the beginning, I would question if this was real. I would ask myself the odds of him maybe just forgetting. And forgetting again. And 3/4’s of a second later... Forgetting again.
We may forget the correct answer on an exam, or while writing an important essay, we have that one word that is “on the tip of our tongue” but can’t seem to write out. Afterward, we may go back through our notes or look that word up in the thesaurus. Some may call that the “oh yeah” moment when the knowledge and memory returns, but I call that privilege.
We know who we are. We know who our family is. Although my grandfather is not at the point yet, it is an inevitable factor in this disease that he will eventually reach. He can take pills to slow the Alzheimer’s, like a blinking yellow light, but most of us just speed through that. We drive down that 40-mph road, we see that flashing yellow light to slow down, but we continue going 40-mph. That’s how it feels while witnessing this disease: consistent and inevitable.
The most heartbreaking part is when he notices. He will have a doctor’s appointment and forget about it soon after. He will ask what the doctor said. He will ask what’s wrong with him. He will ask why he can’t remember.
He fixates on things. Some people have OCD and need everything in order. In a room with ten frames hanging, none of them are crooked. In a closet full of clothes, they are all organized by color. When something is occurring at the moment, it is the only thing on his mind. A man comes to fix the air conditioner: he asks why. He needs to know why. We tell him why.
But he asks again.
Until the man leaves and no longer remembers.
It’s the short-term things. We may drive by a store and see they are having a sale, so we go home and shop online. We go to the beach with our friends and tell our parents all about our day without being asked. With him, it’s the opposite. He will go golfing with friends, return home, and ask what he did all day. He will eat dinner and soon after go search through the pantry asking when dinner will be ready. He will make us pancakes and afterward be surprised, almost in denial that he cooked them.
It’s the little things right now but the little things are what always seem to hit us the hardest. Right now, all I can focus on is his forgetfulness, his short-term memory. But he knows who I am. The day he forgets me, the day he talks to me like just another waitress, like just another friendly stranger, I don’t want to say I overlooked having a grandpa who remembers me. Time is a valuable thing, and despite its consistency right now, I am trying to slow down at those yellow lights. I am trying to avoid the inevitable, but promise to accept it when it comes because I am done overlooking.
Nicole Rhodes is currently a student at the University of Tampa. Writing has always been a passion of hers since our own words are irreplaceable. This is only a chapter in her life, but it contributes greatly to who she is today. Nicole is from Ocean City, NJ.