Monday, July 20, 2009

The Fade

It's become tradition that my dad, C, and I go to see the Harry Potter movies together because we all liked the books. C called yesterday afternoon because her grandmother died, which means we'll have to postpone this weekend's plans until the next. She's taking the death pretty calmly, and I understand exactly why. Her grandmother had Alzheimer's.

In that post a week or two ago about summers past, I mentioned that we moved in with my great-grandmother to care for her because she had Alzheimer's too. I think that was to the detriment of the entire family; except perhaps my grandfather who didn't have to see his mother go into a home. Nothing before or after turned our lives upside down like that did, and in some minor ways the ripples continue still, thirteen years later. I hope I'm not tempting fate by saying that it's the worst!

Hopefully you got the sense from the other post that I really cared for my great-grandmother while I was growing up. By the time I was seven, I was out of grandmothers, but she made the loss easier to bear. The very worst thing about this disease is it rips away all the good from some of the victims, and my great-grandmother wasn't an exception.

One of the only worthwhile personal conversations I had with a professor was about my great-grandmother shortly after she died. Q (he really went by Q) said that he coped with his mother's progression with the disease the same way I did - we both created two people out of one. The first person was the one you loved. The second one was the person who caused pain and destroyed normalcy. If you manage to convince yourself that the person who is tormenting everyone isn't the person you loved, then you can protect your feelings for the person they used to be. Like, Great-Grammy wasn't the person who laughed when she discovered that her son died (he died of cancer four months before her). Nope. That was the mean old bitch who stole her identity. The real Great-Grammy wouldn't have ever done any of the things that the imposter did...things that are terrible and better left unsaid. All these years later, I still think of her as two different people, because I can't hate who she was, but I sure hated the woman she became. I skipped her funeral. I had to, you see, because I wasn't grieving, I was relieved.

Though there are probably worse ways to die, Alzheimer's is one of the most cruel. Not only does it often inspire loved ones to hate the victim in the way few other diseases do, there's also what it does to the victim that's terrible too. A lot of people think that the victims are just out of it, but they're not always and that's the real horror of it. Even towards the end Great-Grammy had lucid periods, though we all wished she wouldn't. It was easy to tell when she was lucid, because that's when she'd cry with guilt over things she did but no longer had any control over.

She wanted it to be over, but our country doesn't believe in letting people die with the dignity we bestow upon pets, so she lingered for exactly a year after my mom and brother moved in with her. (ostensibly my dad "lived" with me the last two semesters of high school because I was under 18 the first one, but really, I saw him at home just two days a week because Mom and Vynce needed him there more - and I spent the last three months of high school driving 120 miles each way myself every weekend. I myself moved the day after graduation. I'm sure Vynce and I are more f*cked up people due to all of this, but that's not the point of this post.) We were all at peace once she died, sad to say.

So...I can understand why C isn't broken up by her grandmother's death. She said "she's been dead a long time, this was just her body catching up" and it's hard to disagree with that.

"Get in to my car, drive into the night/Then lie as I scream to the heavens above/That I was the last one you ever loved" - Better Than Ezra, Porcelain

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