Last night, I got a message from a cousin that my grandpa was not doing well. He has an infection throughout his body and they weren't sure if he'd make it 24 hours. Now, most people would be shocked, unless the family member had been sick for some time. And while I wasn't aware of him having any physical health concerns, he's been lost to the horrible world of Alzheimer's for quite some time. I remember back in 2005, give or take a year, when I saw him at the onset of it all. I hadn't seen him in a few years, but I was the first grand-daughter - the pride and joy - so he'd never forget me. Right? Wrong. As I hugged him, he pulled back, unsure of who I was. My heart sank.
It was then and there that I had to remember him the way I knew him growing up. Just like his twin brother, who had lost the battle to the same demon years ago, my grandpa was never going to be the same.
Now, fast forward to 2010 (I believe it was before I headed to Kazakhstan). I went to have Christmas dinner with my cousins and my aunt and uncle. Grandma and Grandpa were coming, and I knew it could possibly be the last time I would ever see him again, so I was sure to go. It was so wonderful to be near him again. His smell, his looks - just a warmth about him that always made you feel at peace. But, no matter how good it was to see him that day, it was equally heartbreaking. He did not know me at all. Hell, he didn't even have full memory of his kids, nor his own wife. He kept saying he had to get back to work or he'd get fired. He didn't realize he lived in a nursing home, didn't work, and was celebrating Christmas with family. My heart sank even more.
That was the last time I saw my grandpa. Even if he pulls through this infection, there is no guarantee that he will be around 7 months from now when I return from China. If his time has come, then I will not be able to go home to be with family, but just send my love to them, and hope they know that my heart is with them at this time and always.
I am not shocked by the news of his downturn. I am shocked at how much it hurts. I knew it was coming sooner or later, but even when you are prepared, you are never really prepared. What I am about to say, some may find completely heartless, but that is their right to think that. I know that I will ache for the loss of a man that I love dearly and whom I hold many of dear memories in my heart of. But with that said, he does not have a quality of life that anyone deserves. To not remember your own partner after 60+ years of marriage, or your own children even, just seems to be a life that isn't worth maintaining. I would hope that he is able to leave the nightmare that he lives in soon.
And if he does make it through the summer - maybe my memories are better for both of us. Saying goodbye is never easy, but saying "Hello. I'm your granddaughter" and then saying goodbye - that just seems to be too much for me. When the day does come, I will cry. I will laugh about the good times (like when he used to threaten to put grandma in the trunk on road trips for being a back-seat driver!). And most of all, I will be happy - that I was lucky enough to know this wonderful man, even though he no longer knew me.