A Letter from a Granddaughter
Do you remember the time we spent together at your house and you told me every day how much Jesus loves me? You spent every minute of your time reading the bible and preparing your sermon for Sunday. I remember those times. I remember picking up your bible and looking at it as though it was a priceless gem. You taught me the importance of love and faithfulness. You taught me patience and that true beauty is within. I remember how much you loved grandma and showed her love like it was never ending. And yet it seems like it has ended.
The last thing you did as yourself was give my dad a new chance at love and married he and my step mom. You loved my step mom as though she was your own daughter and yet the memory of her is lost to Alzheimer’s. The last thing you did was show my family and I your love for us and for God. The last thing you did was pray for us. The last thing you did was show me an amazing grandfather. One that would love me forever and be there for me whenever I needed him. Then you were gone.
Only Fifty-seven. What a horrid number. Fifty-seven. The number that tells me when my Papa began to change. The number that tells me all of the memories that I made with my Papa are gone. They are all gone. No more tickle fights or nice family dinners. No more sitting at the table and waiting for Papa to say grace. No more peeking into the spare bedroom to see my Papa studying the word of God. No more seeing the unfailing happiness that my Papa gave to my grandma. No more having Grandma and Papa over for Christmas. Now we receive our gifts through the mail.
Papa, you used to be the only one who could make my little sister laugh. Your whiskers brushing her cheek like a wave of giggles as you kissed her. That was the hardest part. When your whiskers replaced giggles with fear. My little sister knew first that something was wrong. That your kisses were not the same and your tickle fights were not as loving. Something was wrong and you could not see it. Your tickles became too harsh and your kisses were painful. My sister was frightened by you and you could not understand why.
You could not understand the grief in my Grandma's eyes when she received the news of your disease. You could not understand why you were no longer allowed to drive the car around. You could not understand why you no longer knew the roads that led to your drive way. You could not understand why you could not go out to restaurants anymore. You could not understand why eating M&M's all day was bad for you. You could not understand that everything in the kitchen was not edible. You could not understand why leaving the house by yourself was dangerous. You could not understand why we did not go to church with you on Sundays because you could no longer handle social outings.
It was interesting though, Papa, that you may have forgotten who I was; you may have forgotten who your friends were; you may have forgotten your own sons and grandchildren, but at the beginning, you did not forget God. You never forgot to praise God first thing in the morning. You never forgot to sing your praise and worship songs. I would wake up at your house, or at my house when you could still come and visit, and hear you sing at the top of your lungs as your professed your love for Jesus Christ.
Each year your Alzheimer's disease progressed and stole more and more of your memories. But Papa, we will never stop loving you.
Do you remember how to use your fork? Do you remember how to use the bathroom? Do your remember my name? Do you remember who your wife is? Do you know how much God loves you? Do you remember what a dog is? Do you remember how to take a shower? Do you remember what love is? Do you remember what life is?
The last thing you did when you knew how to function was ask your wife Susan for help. The last thing you did was eat food by yourself. The last thing you did was stare off into the distance like you lived in another world. That is where you are now papa. You are in another world. A world where everyone around you is just in your way of doing what you want. A world where thinking is a thing of the past. A world where there is no memory, no love, no happiness, no knowledge, no enjoyment, no caring, no function, and no life. Are you stuck in there Papa? Are you stuck in your own body that you do not know how to work anymore? Are you stuck in your brain where nothing goes on?
What happened to your soul, your personality, and your love when you lost yourself in this curse? I am out here and you are in there, but are you really in there? Are you still here or have you moved on to another life? This curse they call Alzheimer's has taken over your brain Papa. Did you know that? Of course you did not because you do not truly know anything anymore. My life is not the same with Alzheimer's in my family. I fear now for my Uncle and my Father. What will become of them if they have this disease in their genes just waiting for the opportune moment to show itself?
Papa, did you know that you have completely altered the way I must live my life? No longer is living about making memories for myself, but for providing memories for my loved ones because nothing is safe in this world. Not even memories.
Do not worry Papa. You may have lost all your memories, but we have kept them all and I will never forget what this awful disease has taught me about myself and some of my closest family members. I have learned that my weaknesses are found in who I love, but my strengths are found in how others love me. Papa, you raised an amazing son to be my father and your Alzheimer's has taught me how strong and loving my father really is. My father has continually stayed strong for my grandma and for my sisters and me even though he has lost his father. Papa, I have also seen the unfailing love you gave to Grandma come out through her to her granddaughters. Grandma has been a steady stream of love and joy to my sisters and me through your struggle with Alzheimer's. Some may think that you are the only one struggling with Alzheimer's, but I have learned that Alzheimer's does not just affect its' prisoner. Alzheimer's hurts everyone who cares for the person who has fallen victim.
Papa, when you escape your prison and leave us to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus Christ, we will be here to remember your love, your kindness, and your strength. "Abigail, did you know that Jesus loves you more than you can fathom?" you would say as I walked through the door of your home. "Yes Papa" I would say. You never let me forget God's love for me or your love for me. I hope someday we can be together again, but until then I will remember you for who you really are. -Abigail Bozarth