The Power of Love
The signs were inescapably obvious. Simple nouns such as “McDonalds” and “White Castle” were forgotten. The stories would almost always conclude with “What-cha-ma-call-it…?” which became her most frequent saying. Members of my family who could see the changes recognized the early symptoms as Dementia. My Grandma, Nanny to the Shiebler family, was unquestionably aging very quickly. Regretfully, her physician diagnosed this change as Alzheimer’s disease.
My Nanny was known for watching junky soap operas and game shows. General Hospital was her forte. One day, my Dad came home to see her watching a special on a news channel. The show focused on Alzheimer’s and the fate of someone who was diagnosed with it. Because my Nanny’s mind was only beginning to go, she fully understood the program’s message. Her eyes were glued to the screen, she maintained complete comprehension. She realized now that her fate, after a painful mental and bodily break-down, would be death.
The progress of her disease over the next few years is blurred in my mind. One day, she was forced to sell her home. My family and I had spent our holidays there for as long as I can remember. First my grandmother moved into a convalescent home, then suddenly, into an intense psychiatric care center. I remember a trip to Massachusetts with my dad, when we stopped to see my Nanny there. The yellow room was cramped, and filled with older people with similar diseases. My grandma had been put on a myriad of drugs to stop her random outbursts, and these were causing her to her mutter incomprehensibly. My Nanny, who had been a very independent woman, would have been terribly embarrassed if she had known how Alzheimer’s was affecting her. Trying to ignore her whispers, I showed her a recent school picture that I had brought with me. She smiled, but a look of confusion remained. As we left, I finally felt her presence for the first time since before she was seriously diagnosed. Even though it seemed as if she did not understand why she was there, or even who my Dad and I were, I knew by her immediate reaction to our leaving, that she wanted to show her adoration for us. With her grasp firm around my body, I knew that she did still distinguish the emotion of love. This encounter made me realize how love can truly endure even through the most terrible times.
Two weeks later, she was rushed to the hospital with severe dehydration. A small portion of my family sat with her as she progressively let go of life. My Dad and I had been there for about two hours, when the rest of my family decided to go out for lunch. I crept up close to my Nanny to hold her hand. Surprisingly, I felt a tight grasp from her hand, even though she was under a significant dose of morphine. I understood the awkwardness my Dad felt at that moment because I knew that he had not maintained the best relationship with his mother. Ignoring this, I asked my Dad to take her hand as well. He hesitated, but decided to follow my lead. We both knew that this could be our last moment with her. The nurse then came in to increase her dose of morphine. After this dose, her grasp loosened.
This experience showed me how powerful the emotion of love is in all of our lives. Although my Grandma had forgotten her family’s faces, I saw that the feeling of love she received from us was never lost to her. That moment in the medical center when my Nanny rose from her seat to embrace my Dad and I after not even remembering simple words, was to me, one of life’s miracles. One might think that Alzheimer’s would make a person nothing but miserable. Instead, the presence of love could change and overcome the unhappiness. This incident helped me to realize that the truly caring for someone can conquer anything, even the effects of a devastating sickness such as Alzheimer’s.