My Nana has Alzheimer's. It's progressing pretty quickly, and I notice she's a little worse for wear nearly every time I see her these days. It's hard to watch, and I don't just mean how the disease affects her. It's hard to watch how my Papa struggles to cope with it and how my family tries to deal with it.
But because of Nana's illness, we've been making it a point to see my grandparents more often, and I could not be more grateful for the times we've been sharing. My immediate family had not been close with that side of the family for some time now, so I am so thankful for the opportunity to get to know my grandparents now.
We get together for dinner, church, or a hockey game (sometimes all three) every few weeks and often spend time gathered around a table in a restaurant or kitchen laughing like maniacs. I've learned so much about my grandparents. How they met, the jobs the had, the struggles they faced, and the joys they shared. I've learned about who my mom was as a kid. I've heard stories about my aunts and uncles. And I love every second of it.
Tonight, Nana told me two or three different stories multiple times over the same short meal. She pretended to know the correct responses at Church. She asked us three times where we were going to dinner. She probably would not have known my name if my Papa had not prepared her for us coming over. The way I see it, I could count the mistakes she makes, the signs that point to her failing health. Or I could count the positive moments. The stories she told about meeting Papa. The smile on her face when she told me she had loved him for 50 years. Reminiscing about pets my mom and her siblings used to have. The look on her face as she covered her mouth when she almost swore loudly in a crowded restaurant.
That's how I want to remember her. That's how she deserves to be remembered. Alzheimer's is cruel, but in taking away Nana's ability to remember, it has, in a sense, given me the opportunity to get to know her. I know how lucky I am to have this chance, and I don't plan to waste it.