Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Memory Loss

I'm sure everyone has been effected at some point.

My grandmother on my mom's side developed Alzheimer's later in life. We were never close to her, having moved from the Midwest solidly into the West, but we had a chance to visit on occasion. One of those times, in what was probably my last year of junior high school, I got my first look at what a confusing and sad disease Alzheimer's truly is.

My grandmother on my mom's side was who I thought of when I heard the word grandma or grandmother. No offense to my other grandma, but I think we spent a little more time and had a little more contact with my mom's mom. She was short and seemingly an inch shorter every time I saw her.

As a kid I saw her more often, if you could call every couple years often. We were too far away to be in close contact, but I remember my grandfather as the silent leader. In my memories he's never talking, just getting things accomplished. Preparing some freshly caught fish in his basement with the nearby freezer containing freeze-pops is the overwhelming winner.

Unfortunately one of the more vivid memories I have of him is how he looked in the hospital just prior to passing away. He looked shocked, actually. Eyes wide and alert, knowing but attempting not to show fear or sadness. There isn't a single memory I can conjure which contains him speaking. All memories revert to that day in the hospital, me not knowing what to say or do while a man I considered family but hardly knew lay there dying. I didn't know what to say, he couldn't speak, my memories are wordless. Fitting, I guess.

My mom cried hard during his funeral, my only memory of that event besides the twenty-one gun salute. He won a purple heart. You don't want to have to watch your mom cry. Black cars, my mom crying, and a story I can't quite recall involving the church (?) he used to do electrical work on going haywire the day of his funeral. That's unfortunately it.

I can't remember anything else.

My grandmother, on the other hand, lived much longer and contributed to many more memories. Unfortunately she began developing Alzheimer's during my junior high years and by the time she came to live with us she was pretty bad.

Ask a friend of mine from high school and you'll certainly hear the story of how they came to my place for a party one weekend and pulled an afghan out of the closet only to find that it was about thirty feet long and 2 feet wide.

Yes, my grandmother knitted a blanket that was only useful if you and your 10 friends decided to sleep in a long straight line. This was because she was losing her sense of space. She'd already lost her short term memory.

We made a trip to her neck of the woods for my dad's family reunion. Along the way we dropped BG off for a week of gay theater stuff at a nearby college. We picked him up and made the trek to my dad's in-laws. It was there that my grandma asked BG what he'd be doing for college.

87 times.

It was cute and hilarious to me. I didn't really know what Alzheimer's was.

As the years passed and she eventually came to live with us I'd see the effects first hand. Besides, I was much older and more capable of understanding what was going on. It was clear she wasn't right.

She would ask me how long our living room was. "How big is this room, Mikey? (She'd call me the wrong name all the time) 300 yards?"

No grandma, 20 feet.

She'd ask you the most ridiculous questions and then less than a minute later she'd tell you in amazing detail about when she went to work in a factory as a young girl, naming the parts and recalling dates and times.

Alzheimer's is a bitch.

Which is why I was more than happy to help my buddy Kid Dynamite when he passed along some information about his friend raising money for Alzheimer's. This crazy bastard ran 100 MILES in a single day to raise money for Alzheimer's research!


Exactly. You're fucking lazy.

I suggest you throw a couple bucks towards his efforts. I certainly have. If you don't have anyone currently affected, the chances you eventually will have someone affected are pretty solid. Like the chances a lady will find me attractive. It's sort of inevitable.

Go here to read his unbelievably calm recap of running 100 miles in a day.

Mine would be like this...




11am: I quit.