I was 11 years old when my grandmother passed away and my grandfather had to live with us because of his affliction with Alzheimer’s disease. I loved my grandfather. I had fond memories of working with him in his garden, going to “Tasty Dog” for a hot dog and chips, and sharing a Mr. Goodbar with him. When he moved in with us, I didn’t fully comprehend what Alzheimer’s had done to him. I envisioned us taking frequent visits to Tasty Dog where I would hear stories about the escapades of my dad and aunt when they were younger. The first time I was to really understand something was different was the day Pappaw called me “Frank”. My name isn’t Frank. My dad is Frank, I am Trey. At first, I thought it was just a slip. Who doesn’t mix up names from time to time? Besides, everyone always told me I looked exactly like my dad when he was my age. It wasn’t a slip up though, he insisted I was Frank and wanted to know where Rethell was. Rethell, my grandmother, had passed away several months before so I couldn’t understand why he was asking for her. He knew what had happened, he had been at the funeral. Why was my grandfather asking for her?
For the the next year, I watched as my grandfather confused names and occurences. I watched him forget what year it was, sometimes even forgetting what decade we were in. I watched a man who was very kind and quiet for most of my life become angry and verbally lash out at people. I watched as my dad had to help him shave, dress, bathe himself, and use the restroom. I watched as he had to hear the news of my grandmother’s death time and time again.
I have many fond memories of my grandfather that I will always keep with me. But the last years of his life, my last memories of him, were spent in pain and frustration. I didn’t cry at my grandfather’s funeral. I missed him and I loved him dearly but I found myself unable to cry. I couldn’t cry because I was too happy for him. I knew that while I would miss him, he was no longer constrained by this debilitating disease that changed him.
I don’t want others to experience what I experienced. I’ve decided to honor my Pappaw by participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. As a part of the walk, I’ve pledged to raise $500 towards research funding for prevention and a cure. You can help by donating towards my campaign. If we work together, we can bring an end to Alzheimer’s.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s Disease and the research being done to prevent it and cure it, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website.