I wasn’t going to write on this subject right away. It’s only been a few minutes for me. it’s too fresh, too personal. My children lost their grandfather today. It’s true that he wasn’t a blood relative of my children so not really a grandfather in the strictest sense of the word. He was the Wife’s foster-father, but that never stopped me or her from treating him like family because it never stopped the people who adopted us from treating us like family.
He had developed ALS in the last few years. It had gotten to the stage where he was in a wheelchair most of the time and had lost his fine motor skills. That is what finally got him. I was beginning to think that nothing could kill that old man. He had gotten stents placed back in the dark ages nearly thirty years ago (medicinally, the dark ages compared to now) after a second heart attack and open heart surgery for the first one.
Twenty years a cop before that. He spent some time in undercover work and had stories he could tell about that time if you could pry them out of him. He was a father figure for me when I had given up hope of ever meeting an older man that I could respect. I didn’t meet him until almost too late. Almost.
Now he’s gone and I wasn’t going to write about it. Not today. Maybe in a few days when the emotion is less raw. I wasn’t going to write about it, and then I wander past Stonekettle Station looking at what was current on the blog and the second article from the top was Jim explaining to his readers why he wouldn’t make it to Worldcon this year. His mother-in-law had died from complications of Alzheimer’s after years of care:
At first, in the early stages, you can maybe get a break every few days. They can be left alone in their rooms or in front of the TV for a short while. A friend, a family member, can take the watch for a few hours. But sooner or later, it becomes every minute of every day of every week of every month of every year. You have to be vigilant every moment. You look away, even for second, and an Alzheimer’s patient can hurt themselves, can wander away into the woods or the road, can do something that endangers others and themselves. You don’t get any sleep, because you have to be there, all the time. You can’t even go use the bathroom, because somebody has to be there. You never get any time to yourself. None.stonekettle.com
Alzheimer’s took my grandmother from me back in 1996 or so. She lived for four more years after that, dying in 2000, but she had forgotten who I was long before her body stopped working. I couldn’t stomach it. I couldn’t even go visit, and I never saw the reason to. She would simply be bothered by this person she didn’t know and who couldn’t possibly be related to her; and I…? I couldn’t get past the declaration “Oh, you aren’t one of mine.”
I know it was the disease, but the statement laid out so baldly like that just killed me. Yes, Grandma, I’m adopted. To have to go through that every day, every other hour? So I saved us both the trouble and never bothered her again afterwards. I have wondered what it might have been like to try to talk to her again before the end. Mostly I just torment myself with those kinds of questions though. “Oh, you aren’t one of mine.” True enough.
She is free of the pain now. Free of the confusion, the degradation and elimination of self. That is what I tell myself. I wish I could offer better condolences to Jim and his wife, but that is all I have. The marathon is over now. Mercifully. In both cases the marathon is over. We’ll miss them.