Saturday, January 29, 2011

#9: Chapter 2: "Hallelujah!"

When I was 6 months old, my parents had their differences and ended up getting divorced. My mother then found herself as a single 25 year old with a 4 year old and a 6 month old. What choice did she have but to move back in with her mother. 4 years later she met the man that would be my common law Step-Father (they've yet to get married but they might as well be). Needless to say, my grandmother was pretty much a major part of my life. When my mom ended up moving out, my brother and I stayed since we were in the best School district in Colorado. My brother left when he was 17, so it was just me and her. But in all honesty, I've never known a better person.

My grandmother grew up during the great depression in a house of 4 kids. She had 2 brothers and a sister. The 3 of them, plus her father all ended up being alcoholics. My grandmother was very much against drinking as a result, and believed that a majority of the country's problems were because of FDR making alcohol legal again. That's where the majority of my never having a desire to drink comes from, her constant hatred of what alcohol does to people. She married my grandfather who got polio in WWII. They had 2 daughters, my mom and my aunt. They didn't exactly have the most happy of marriages. I heard many times the story of the day it ended. My grandfather had fallen in love with his nurse at the VA hospital. He left a note on the kitchen table one day telling my grandmother that he had left to go be with her. As she would always tell the story her reaction was that she raised her hands in the air and yelled, "Hallelujah!"

My family pretty much consisted of 2 sides. I never met her older brother, and the other one died when I was young. Her sister though was the other side of the family. She had 4 boys who between them had I think 8 kids, give or take. Even though my great aunt had the most kids and grand kids, my grandmother was still the matriarch of the family. She was the strongest of all of us. No one ever met her that didn't like her.

I'm going to be honest right now. I have no idea where I'm going with this blog. I came up with this idea last week, but really didn't think it all through. I wanted to talk about my Grandmother, and what a huge influence she was on my life. About how she was really the most important person to me growing up, and how she was the strongest person I've ever known. But sadly, all of that is hard for me to remember. You see, all of that is very unfortunately overshadowed by one of the worst things that exists in this world. Something that I truly hope someday is cured.

It started slowly. In the 90's it seemed innocent enough. She would forget little things here and there. I was in high school by this time, so I wasn't as dependent on her as I had been. She was long retired by this point and was living off of social security and retirement benefits. She would go to all of my band competitions with my mom, and a lot of the football games at my school as I didn't get a car until I was 18 (my mom wouldn't let me until I had a good enough GPA for an insurance discount, and as I said in my last blog, not the best student). Slowly it seemed like more and more little things would slip her mind.

Once I graduated I had no idea what I was going to do. The summer after that I ended up spending a year at the Art Institute of Colorado in hopes of becoming a computer animator. One day in my Color Theory class (yes, that is a thing) when we all turned in a project we'd been working like a month on is when that all ended. I looked at my project, this weird pipe cleaner creature thing. Then I looked at everyone else's. There were paintings and sculptures and just all these amazing pieces of art. It was at that time I realized that I would be competing for jobs with these people, and I wasn't the artist I thought I was. I dropped out, and just kind of concentrated on working at Blockbuster.

My grandmother had always said that when she died, I would get her house, the house I had lived my entire life in. Since this was pretty much the plan, we all decided that I would just stay there, especially since it was becoming obvious that she needed someone to be there. Well, I say it was decided, but really, non of this ever came up because at no point did I ever consider moving out.

As the years went on, her memory got worse and worse. In the early 2000's it started to reach the point where she would repeat questions minutes apart from each other because she didn't remember asking them. In 2002, the most devastating event in my families history occurred (we'll be getting to that 2 blogs from now) and we all just went numb for a while. 13 months and 4 funerals later, we had finally leveled out for a while. We really didn't want to deal with much more. Luckily we got a little break from sorrow. My grandmother had basically stayed at the point she was at for a while now. It was frustrating yes, but you kind of get used to it after a while, and you just have to be patient. She didn't know she had a problem and she was happy.

It was in 2005 when things took a turn. He memory really seemed to be slipping worse. Then one night, well, I can't write about it. It's a very private and sad moment in my life that shouldn't be shared in a blog like this. I'll just say that dementia started to set in. I called my mom hysterical. I didn't know what to do. She ended up eventually calling my aunt, who was living in Florida at the time and told her that she couldn't deal with it on her own anymore. Since my aunt had had her world destroyed in Florida (that is part of 2 blogs from now also) she decided to move back to Colorado to help out. (By the way, these are the events as I had understood them to take place. That may or may not be exactly how things occurred, but the end result is all the same.)

In November of 2005, things really started to take a turn. My grandmother started spending a lot of time in the bathroom. I mean a lot. I probably shouldn't talk about this part, but it's kind of important because it was the catalyst for the end of this story. For some reason, in her mind she seemed to think she had to go to the bathroom, however she'd forget that she was already in there all day. This went on for 2 days before I said something to my mom about it, (I know, maybe to long). My aunt ended up coming over and trying to figure things out. Finally at the beginning of December they took her to the hospital to get things figured out. They ran tests on her, did a few procedures on her, and for whatever reason, this ended up being too much. The next day when I went to see her, her mind was pretty much gone. No longer was the strong matriarch of my family in front of me. She had finally been fully claimed by the disease that had been eating away at her for 10 years. Essentially what had happened was her body started forgetting how to work properly.

It was then we all decided it was best to put her in a hospice care facility, and take her off any life support. It wouldn't be fair to her to live in this condition. I believe she was there for less then a day when, on December 7th, she passed away.

I was, for the first time in my life, left all alone in the house I loved. I knew however, I was by no means ready to be a home owner, and it didn't really matter anyway, as the house was owned by not just my grandmother, but my mom and aunt as well. It was shortly after this that I came to the decision that I wanted to move to California (the reason for which is next blogs topic). My aunt wanted to move in, so she bought me out of the share of the house that I theoretically owned.

I try to remember my grandmother as the woman who was always there for me when I was growing up. As the woman who, really is most responsible for raising me. As the woman who was so strong and was the head of our family. But it is very hard to do at times. Alzheimer's Disease is a horrible thing to watch someone die from, because it takes a very long time. By the time they finally do pass, it becomes a blessing. The person you loved died years before that. If I were to ever become wealthy, that's the charity I would donate to the most, for no one should ever have to experience that. Alzheimer's is unfortunately one of the few diseases that in the long run effects the people who love and care about the person who has it more then it does the person themselves. It is a psychologically traumatic thing to witness, and I fear everyday that it might be hereditary. I do not want to see the same thing happen to my mom or my aunt, because they have all the best qualities of my grandmother, and to see them slowly wither away like she did will be so heartbreaking. I strongly hope that anyone who is reading this never has to go through that, and that someday a cure can be found.

Ok, I don't know how to end this one. It is a little different because I didn't post any pictures. I don't really have any that would fit this blog. As I was writing the blog last week I just got this urge to write about her. Once I sat down to actually do it, it didn't turn out exactly how I thought it would, but it came out how it needed to.

Next time we will get into a roller coaster of a relationship in my life that might end up being hard to publish. If I end up writing it as well as it needs to be though, it shouldn't end up being awkward at all...Oh just wait and see.

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