The past couple weeks have been interesting for me and my family. It was Christmas, a time for happiness, family, and if you’re a member of my family a large dose of crazy. Christmas happened in the usual way, presents were exchanged, there was laughter, my Grandma was making inappropriate jokes, my aunt was drunk hosting her annual Christmas Eve party, and my dad nearly died by slipping on a turkey wing while carrying the turkey in for Christmas dinner. Everything seemed normal except for one obvious difference, my Grandpa wasn’t there because he is dying.
He has a version of dementia that the doctors can’t diagnose. It looks like Parkinsons but it’s not because the medication only partially helps. They can’t tell if it’s Lewy Body Dementia because that can’t be diagnosed until the autopsy and they pull little cyst like things out of the brain.
He will be out of it most of the time, he will be so confused and agitated because he’s confused. Most of the time when I went to visit him he would be confused and agitated, a shell of the man who taught me how to drive a boat, who would toboggan with me down steep hills, who would push me around in wheelbarrow as a kid. The man who cared so much about me was reduced to just a shell and I couldn’t cry even though I wanted to. In my family I am the voice of reason, I am the tough one who holds it together when the sky is falling down on us. I don’t get to cry. So I didn’t.
Then the last day I went to visit him before I went home was a good day. When I walked into his hospital room I wasn’t sure who I was going to find. If I was going to find a man in the midst of a hallucination, or if he was going to be so agitated that he starts throwing things at me, but I got a surprise. In that room, I found my Grandpa, not the shell of my Grandpa, but my Grandpa. He looked up at me and said, “Why, hello there sweetheart. How are you?” I smiled so big that my face hurt. We joked about the turkey incident that I told it as a story in a far past, not the recent past. We joked about how nurses stuck him in the corner for breakfast and now was stuck. I fixed his butt pillow. I had my Grandpa back for 3 hours and it was wonderful. It was the last three hours I am ever going to have with my Grandpa.