Grandfathers Rapid Decline In Memory English Literature Essay

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For two or three years, my grandfather had known that his memory was declining. First he had difficulty remembering the names of his friends, and one year he completely forgot where he parked his car. He compensated by writing things down on note cards. After all, he told himself, he was getting older. But then he would find himself groping for a word he had always known, and he worried that he was getting senile.

Recently, when he was talking with a group of friends, Joseph, my grandfather, would realize that he had forgotten more than just occasional names-he lost the essence of the conversation altogether. He compensated for this too: he always made an appropriate and convenient answer, even if he secretly felt disoriented. No one noticed, except perhaps his neighbor, who said to his best friend, "I think Joseph is losing his memory." It worried my grandfather-sometimes depressed him-but he always denied that anything was wrong. There was no one to whom he could say, "I am losing my cognitive abilities. They are slipping away as I watch." Besides, he didn't want to think about losing his mind, didn't want to reflect on getting old, and, most important, he didn't want to be treated as if he were demented. He was still enjoying his life and able to manage.

Then last winter Joseph got sick. At first he thought it was only a minor cold. He saw a doctor, who gave him some medications, and asked him what he expected at his stage of life, which disturbed him. He rapidly got much sicker. He went to bed, anxious, weak, and exhausted. Two years ago, I got a telephone call from my grandfather's neighbor. Together we found Joseph delirious, febrile, and rambling incoherently.

During the first few days in the hospital my grandfather had only a discontinuous, hazy notion of what was occurring. The doctors told us that he had pneumonia, and that his kidneys were working insufficiently. All the devices of the hospital were activated to combat the infection.

My grandfather was in an odd place, and nothing was commonplace. Strangers, all intruders, appeared and vanished. They told him where he was, but he forgot. In unfamiliar surroundings he could no longer compensate for his forgetfulness, and the delirium caused by the grave illness exacerbated his consistent inability to remember. He thought his wife came to see him: a handsome young woman in her flowery blue and yellow dress. Then when my dad came, he was surprised that they would come together. My dad kept saying, "But Dad, Mom has been dead for ten years." But he knew she wasn't, because she had just been there. Then when he complained to me that I never came, he thought I was lying when I said, "But Grandpa, I was just here this morning." In truth, he could not remember that same morning.

People came and pushed and poked, gave him needles and shoved things in and out and over him. He did not understand and they could not explain why blowing in the tubes encouraged him to breathe deeply to strengthen his lungs and improve circulation. He could not remember where he was and they did not allow him to go to the bathroom by himself, which made him wet himself and feel terrible about it.

Sequentially, my grandfather got better. The infection emancipated and the wooziness ameliorated. Only during the critical episode of the illness did he imagine things, but after the infection and the fever had completely passed, the confusion and forgetfulness seemed more acute than before. Although the illness has probably not influenced the gradual course of his memory loss, it had drained him considerably and taken him out of the natural setting in which he had been able to perform. Most significantly, the illness had centralized attention on the criticalness of his situation. Now my family realized he could no longer live alone.

The people around my grandfather talked and talked. No doubt they clarified their agendas, but he forgot. When he was finally released from the hospital in December of 2008, they took him to my house. They were relieved about something that specific day, and led him into a sunny room. Here at last were some of his objects, but not all of them. He assumed perhaps the rest of his things had been stolen while he was in the hospital. They kept explaining they had told him where his belongings were, but he couldn't remember the content of what they said.

This is where they accounted to everyone where he lived now, in his grandson's house ---except that long ago he had made up his mind that he would never live with his children or grandchildren. He wanted to live at home. At home he could locate things. At home he could carry on ---he believed--- as he always had. At home, perhaps, he could uncover what had become a lifelong accumulation of possessions. This was not his home: his independence was terminated, his things were gone, and Joseph felt a monstrous sense of loss. My grandfather could not remember my father's loving justification --- that he couldn't manage by himself and that bringing him to live in my house was the best arrangement he could attain for him at that time.

Often, Joseph was alarmed, an obscure, amorphous consternation. His defective mind could not explain his angst and qualm. People appeared, memories came up, and they departed suddenly. He could not discern reality from fantasy. The bedroom was not where it used to be. Grooming became an inconceivable affliction. His hands failed to perform the usual tasks.

My grandfather progressively lost the ability to comprehend and make sense of different stimuli. Turbulences and clutter made him feel apprehensive. He couldn't apprehend, they couldn't explicate, and often terror confounded him. He agonized over his things: a desk, and the books that had belonged to his father. He could not remember where and how his belongings disappeared. Perhaps someone had stolen his possessions. He had sacrificed so much. What things he still retained, he hid, but then he could not recall where he hid them, which has always brought tears to my eyes.

"I cannot get my grandfather to take a bath," I said in desperation."He does not smell all right." "How can I send him anywhere if he won't take a bath?" For Joseph the bath became an encounter with the devil. The bath meant remembering and mastering so many different skills. It meant remembering how to peel the layers of his clothes, how to locate the bathroom, how to shampoo and shower. My grandfather's fingers had become useless; his feet had turned heavy. There were so many obligations for a wounded mind to think about that depression conquered.

How do any of us handle predicaments? We might try to avoid the troubling circumstances, and contemplate. One person may go out for a drink; another may work in the garden or go for a walk with the dog. Sometimes we react with animosity and frustration. We oppose those who elicit, or at least provoke, our condition. Or we become defeated for a while, until nature rejuvenates us or the disturbance disappears.

My grandfather's usual approach to dealing with trouble endured. Often when he felt agitated, he considered walking around the neighborhood. Yet the trouble persisted and now it was more abominable, for my grandfather would be bewildered, nothing would be customary and habitual: the one story house had perished and the now busy urban street was not the one he was familiar with. The panic would dominate, clinging to his soul. Joseph would try to escape.

Sometimes my grandfather would behave with tantrums. It was resentment he himself did not fathom. But things were absent, his life seemed lost. The windows of his soul opened and closed, or disappeared altogether. Who would not be bitter? Someone had collected his things and taken then away, the cherished blessings of a lifetime. Was it me, or his friends, or a brother resented in childhood? He accused me but quickly forgot the skepticism. He could not understand why he could not be with my father who lived in Lebanon and came to visit every year twice.

Many of us remember the day before a major operation. We lay fully awake the night before, concerned with the consequences of the operation or the future implications. Every day was as frightening for my grandfather.

Many of Joseph's social skills prevailed, so he was able to converse and enjoy the company of other people in the adult center, although he could never remember the details of his days to tell me more about it.

The time finally came when my father was able to have my grandfather live with him. He felt sheltered in his new place where people spoke his first language and could better relate to him.

My grandfather was pleased when family members and friends came to visit. Sometimes he called them by their correct names; more often he did not. He never remembered that they had visited a few days ago, so he regularly admonished them for deserting him. They could never find the exact correct words to respond, they gave him hugs, held his hands, and spent time with him chatting about whatever came to his mind. He was happy when they didn't attempt to remind him of what he had missed or said incorrectly, or ask him if he remembered their sons, daughters and others. He appreciated it when they just loved him and we continue to make his life as enjoyable as possible. We live for the moment and adapt as the changes come.

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