Two boys bore his last name. Five siblings called him brother. One wife of 50 years counted him as her favorite person of all time. He was a devoted husband, father, friend, and brother. When people thought of him, the first thing they thought of was his humor. Always laughing, rolling his eyes in a self-deprecating way, making people feel at ease with his kindness.
Second oldest in the family, he was a big brother and father-figure to his siblings, especially his youngest sister, who was born much later than the rest of them and entered a world of mostly grown-up kids. He was kindness and care and protection.
He was grandpa to four boys; a family destined to be full of snails and spiders and pillow forts. He was always a bit unsure of what to do with little girls.
But 10 years. 10 years of confusion, slight mishaps, slow progressions. 10 years of grief and change and research. In 10 years, the light and humor didn’t disappear, but the memories did. The knowledge of names and relationships and stories: all gone. 10 years where Alzheimer’s ravaged its way into another life. 10 years that left him tired and confused and unsure of who he was.
His sisters visit him in his Alzheimer’s care assisted living home where he is no longer able to string together a sentence of comprehensible words. They talk to him and tell stories of growing up and what his grandsons are up to and how beautiful his son’s wedding was last night. They compliment him and he laughs and rolls his eyes and understands the tenor of what they are saying, even if he can’t continue the conversation.
He doesn’t know who they are exactly, and he doesn’t remember that his son was getting married. But he remembers laughter and songs and long ago stories. He can’t say an intelligible sentence, but he can sing a whole song from start to finish. He doesn’t remember who they are exactly, but he does remember they are his. He hears something familiar in their voices.
Loved ones feel sad about losing the man he was. They feel sad about the conversations they can no longer have and the stories he can no longer participate in. They miss the man who would tease them and hug them and hold them long into the night.
But amidst all the confusion and the loss, there is still a light in his eyes. There’s still the singing and the laughing. And they know it won’t last too long, so they hold onto it with all their might, knowing that each moment he still looks them in the eyes, is a moment they can’t take for granted. He is still theirs, and he will always be theirs, no matter what comes their way.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in their family we at MesaView Senior Assisted Living are here to help. This essay was written by one of our very own here at MesaView who was touched personally by Alzheimer’s and who is now dedicated to providing the best possible care to those persons and family members affected by the disease.