7 years ago
When A Loved One Has Alzheimer’s
I’ve always wanted to be a part of one of those really close families. You know the ones I’m talking about. Think It’s Complicated, Father of the Bride, or While You Were Sleeping. Parenthood. Gilmore Girls. Modern Family. Not perfect. Just (mostly) happy and very close to one another.
When A Loved One Has Alzheimer’s
Unfortunately, I haven’t spoken to my dad in 13 years. I’ve been talking to my mom lately but it’s so complicated. My half-sisters are great but we’re not that close. My mom is an only child and my grandparents passed away, so that’s it. Then there’s my great aunt Rose. She’s been the light (for me) in my family for as long as I can remember. We have always talked about anything and everything. She’s always been my number one supporter. From learning to make pasta (she was so proud you would have thought I invented the stove) to launching my first business. She’s always been my number one (ok, maybe my only) fan.
Rose is my grandmother’s older sister and my mom’s aunt.
My grandma wasn’t the warmest, so Rose always filled that loving, grandmotherly role in my life. And Rose never married or had children, so as far as anyone in our family was concerned, she was basically a second grandmother. We were always very, very close. My sisters loved her and she loved them, butour relationship was different. My grandma definitely favored my sisters (not sure she cared for me very much) but there was no questioning that I was Rose’s favorite.
Our late night chats
Both night owls, we’d spend hours talking late at night when I was in high school, college, and after I moved to Chicago. She never really understood what I did, which I’m basing off the fact that when I told her I ran a website, she said “well no one knows what that is” and that she thought it was a waste that people hired me to design blogs if they couldn’t be printed and hung on a wall. She thought it was great that so many people read The Everygirl (even though she didn’t know what it was). I tried explaining it and she just kept repeating “a magazine on the computer”…over and over and over. We talked about life and love. I asked lots of questions about her past even though her memory wasn’t the best. She’d say something that wasn’t that funny, crack herself up, and I couldn’t help but laugh right along with her.
A few years ago, Rose started hallucinating.
She wouldn’t speak to me over the phone because “they” were listening. It was a really tough time for me because I thought we had lost her (mentally) but she moved into a senior living home, went on medication, and things got better. We went back to our regular chats. Then she started to forget me again. She went from asking about my puppy to asking where I lived. She forgot that I used to live in LA. That we were close. all the questions she asked before my visit, I was really worried about seeing her in LA. I was worried she had forgotten me. But I was hopeful.
The heartbreaking moment when I knew I had been forgotten
Last week, I walked into the room, and no happy tears. Just a confused look. I was no longer her favorite great niece. Just some girl in town for work. It felt like someone hit the delete button on a very big piece of my life. I stayed with her for about 45 minutes and she told me a few times how embarrassed she was that she didn’t remember me. I told her it was ok and asked if she wanted me to share a few stories, or if she’d prefer we talk about something else. She wanted me to remind her, so I did. I told her how close we were. That we used to talk for hours. That I was her favorite niece (which made her laugh like it always did). I did everything I could to make light of the fact that she didn’t know who I was, because I didn’t want her to feel sad or stressed, and while she felt bad, she seemed ok. She asked what I did, where I live, who I live with, and who my mom was.
I miss her
It was great to see her, but my heart broke a little bit, because I realized in that moment that I’ll never talk to Aunt Rose again. Yes, of course I’ll keep calling. I’ll visit her. But our talks (as I know them) have come to an end. Our relationship will never be the same again. I know I won’t forget her any time soon, so I’ll have to hold on to the memories for the both of us. But to her, I’m just some girl who lives in Chicago now, and that’s going to take some getting used to.
Time is precious
I’m hoping this post reminds you of how precious our time and relationships are. If there’s someone (especially a family member) that you haven’t spoken with in a while, or that you owe a phone call to, please call them. And don’t wait months to call again. I called Rose all the time, but now I wish I had called her even more. I know she’s still here and I’m not giving up, but it feels as if it went by in the blink of an eye. Tell and show your people how much you love them.
I’ll close with some favorite Aunt Rose moments. I used to write down some of my favorites while we chatted away. You can read more here.
Me: Happy Birthday!
Rose: Thank you! Who is this?
Rose: I’m glad you got around to calling. It’s my birthday.
Me: How much do you pay to get your hair done?
Me: That’s very reasonable for a cut and color.
Rose: That’s because I don’t go to those highfalutin places.