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Fifty First Posts

September 26, 2011

Well, not really. I haven’t quite gotten there yet, to fifty blog posts that is, but the title was catchy and I wanted to quote my favorite movie. Let’s see, I have 35 posts now, so I guess this would be a more appropriate title:
“Thirty Five First Posts”. But then it would definitely be totally unconnected to the fifty in the movie title, sheesh, what a mess.

Fifty First Dates staring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler. I seriously looove this movie, isn’t it fitting that one year after it was released in 2004, I moved in with my Grandpa who had major memory problems. Yes, Joy, yes it is quite the co-inky-dink. All the characters are awesome in this movie, but the one I relate to most with concern to my Grandpa is Ten Second Tom:

Dr. Keats: Tom lost part of his brain in a hunting accident. His memory only lasts ten seconds.
Ten Second Tom: I was in an accident? That’s terrible.
Dr. Keats: Don’t worry, you’re totally gonna get over it in about three seconds.
Ten Second Tom: Get over it? I mean, what happened? Did I get shot in the brain… Hi. I’m Tom.

We didn’t have ten seconds, we had about five minutes. Five minute Grandpa, you could say, and once you got past that mark, the memory was wiped clean of the present and some of his past. See, but my Grandpa was smooth, even in his state of Alzheimer’s Disease. He had answers to cover up his memory loss, “Hi Grandpa, what are you reading in the paper? Anything interesting?” – I asked this question often – his answer was always the same. “Oh just the same old same old.”, and then he would go back to pretending to read the paper. Or there would be the question about what he had for lunch or for dinner, “Oh just a little of this and a little of that.”.

My favorite was when my Grandpa explained to you what he thought happened to his memory, “Well, the brain can only process so much information in a lifetime. You are bound to forget some of it.”. Bound to forget, yes, those Amoloydal plaques and tangles BOUND up my sweet Grandpa’s brain and he was bound to forget parts of his life. But, you see, his Alzheimer’s didn’t count on me stepping in after my Grandma passed away. I was bound and determined to bring those memories back, even if they only lasted for five minutes. I’d bring him back to the time he went to Stanford and got straight A’s, or back to when he was a Captain in the Airforce. I’d bring him little trinkets or certificates with the hope of sparking a memory or to prove to him that he was an amazing man at one point, even if he couldn’t remember. My mission would be accomplished when I could see the pride in his face or when i could see that his chest puffed out just a little because he remembered, just for a moment, how amazingly intelligent he once was.

It was to be a gentle process, though, because I never wanted him to feel shame for not remembering. As a matter of fact, I would cringe when I heard someone utter those 3 words to him that I detested – “Don’t you remember.”. Here’s a scene from 50 First Dates that is similar to that feeling of mine:

Lucy and her family are going to the memory clinic to see her doctor and they are greeted by the rather dense security guard:
Security Guard 1: Hey Lucy, good to see you again!
[Lucy walks by quietly]
Security Guard 1: What the heck’s her problem?
Security Guard 2: She doesn’t remember who you are, bro.
Security Guard 1: Oh yeah. I suck at this job!

You would be amazed by the amount of people who would greet my Grandpa in this fashion, fully aware of his condition. “Hi Doc, remember me?”, I always felt these burning words on the tip of my tongue – “No you moron, he doesn’t even remember me, his first born grandchild. He’s known me for over thirty years, he just met you recently. Introduce yourself.”. You could see the moment of confusion and shame before Grandpa would say, “Oh sure, how are you ?”. The person would be ecstatic, “See, he remembers me!”. Then that look came back on Grandpa’s face, the shame or embarrassment, like he was thinking about why it would be such a big deal that he would remember this person even though he didn’t.

That’s all for today. I will leave you with my favorite scene from the movie, totally unrelated to memory problems:

Dr. Keats: Was your head shaped like an egg before she hit you?
Doug: Hey! Don’t make fun of Henry, all right? It’th not hith fault hith head’th thaped like that!
Dr. Keats: Note the intense overreaction. That’s the ‘roids talking. Douglas, once again, off the juice.
Doug: It’th not juice! It’th a protein shake!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2011 4:56 pm

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I enjoyed this post- 50 First Dates was a film I liked a lot, which surprised me a bit as I’m not a fan of Adam Sandler. I talked about the film a few months back as a friend of mine was in a bad accident and I worried he would have a brain injury. He’s getting so much better which is such a relief, but I feel for you with your Grandpa. Wishing you lots more good moments with him, and supportive friends and professionals. ‘Carried in Sunlight’ was a song Martyn Joseph wrote about his grandfather and Alzheimer’s. I highly recommend it šŸ™‚

    • September 26, 2011 5:01 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, Hearten Soul. Grandpa passed last December and I am now qriting a memoir of my time caring for him and my children. It was an amazing 5 years for all of us. Thanks for visiting today!

    • September 26, 2011 5:01 pm

      Sorry, my mistake – I don’t think you did visit my blog, but that we were maybe liked by the same third party. And I guess things with your grandfather sound in the past tense. Feel free to delete both these comments if I am coming across as just too inept.

      • September 26, 2011 5:04 pm

        Ha! No, thanks for clearing that up tho. I was beginning to wonder if the Alzheimer’s was contagious, that’s one of my lame jokes. I say it way too often when I forget something. I will be checking out your bog now!! Have a great day šŸ™‚

  2. September 27, 2011 5:17 pm

    This post is really awesome. My grandfather was in a very similar situation, and he tried to handle it very similarly to what you’ve talked about here. He called it losing his rememories. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I’ve enjoyed yours! šŸ™‚

    • September 27, 2011 5:29 pm

      Thank you for stopping by, Jessica! I enjoyed your blog, too. šŸ™‚

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