From a young age, my mother’s mother made sure I always knew she loved me. My grandmother has been a huge part of my life and upbringing. I have spent a lot of time with her, and I’d like to share some of my very fond memories. For those of you who don’t my ethnicity is Armenian. My grandmother was one of the first people to teach me how to speak Armenian, write using the Armenian alphabet, she introduced me to reading in, and she also spent time teaching me old Armenian poems and prayers.
Besides the teaching aspect of my upbringing, my grandmother also always let me have fun. I spent a lot of time outside when the weather was nice. She took me to this huge park near her house…it was incredible! There was a huge playground with a seesaw, tire swing, and an infinite amount of slides. It was like my own outdoor castle. I think it’s still there… She also let me play in her flower garden and when bugs came near me, and I freaked out, she protected me.
She also let me play in her flower garden. The flower garden was always to colorful, vibrant, and fragrant. Needless to say, it was always swarming with bee’s and other insects and when these bugs came near me, and I freaked out, she protected me.
At her house, she also had a vegetable garden, and I remember refusing to eat the tomatoes she grew because I didn’t like the taste. She was very persistent in the kindest way of course and, well, now I love tomatoes.
Currently, my grandmother lives with my family in our home. She moved in with us a few years ago, and a lot has changed since I was a kid. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s Disease. For those of you who don’t know what Alzheimer’s is: a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
I’m not sure how long she’s had it, but I don’t think I understood the effects and progression of Alzheimer’s until I moved back home my senior year of college, which was a little over a year ago.
Though my grandmother is still so kind and sweet, every day is a challenge. There are a lot of ups and downs with Alzheimer’s. All throughout my childhood, my grandmother was the caretaker. She would come over to my house and not only would she help my mother by watching my siblings and me, but she also helped with housework. Well now she’s almost stuck in that mode where she wants to help constantly, but there are things that she just can’t and shouldn’t do. My grandmother is 87 going on 88 and does not like to be told what to do…
She has some other health issues, and we have to make sure that she’s safe. Just like how she used to protect me, I want to protect her.
So this might sound funny, but she constantly wants to wash the dishes… She has some strange desire to do so. At this point in her life, she doesn’t need to do the dishes. My family and I can take care of it, and we do, but when we tell her to leave the dishes for us, she becomes very agitated – only when my siblings and I confront her. If my mom says something she’s fine, but when it’s me she get’s upset. Every so often I’ll get a head shake, an eye roll, and a deep sigh. And you might be thinking, well why are you protecting her from washing the dishes? Again, she’s 87 years old and can very easily hurt herself even by washing the dishes.
She has some other quirks too, like always shutting off the lights when one of us is in a room. It’s just her way of conserving energy, which is nice but it’s always a battle of turning lights on and off and on and off. Sometimes when I try to speak to her seriously, she laughs at me because she doesn’t see me as an adult. There have been times where for a second she’s forgotten who I was, and initially, that was shocking, but now I understand that it’s part of the disease, and she has no control over it. Seeing someone you know and love act so out of character hurts. It does.
I have all these amazing memories of my grandmother, and now when I’m with her, it feels like she’s a different person. But even though her memory gets foggy and she acts out of character she reminds me every day that she loves me.
The reason I wanted to share this personal part of my life is that I will be participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s held by the Alzheimer’s Association this month. I hope that maybe those who are in a similar situation like myself and those who want to make a difference and continue to research Alzheimer’s participate as well.
The walk takes places September 25th at 10 a.m. in Cambridge, MA. You can find more information here as well. Every day I see more and more articles about Alzheimer’s Disease research, and I want to be a part of something that can help those like my grandmother. Hope to see you at the walk!
Until next time.
xx Aline Chaprazian