I know the memory like the back of my hand. Three years ago, my sunshine went out forever.
There is one person I’ve had a special connection with besides my mother; my grandmother.
I remember when she gave me my first cup of coffee in a baby cup. When I was little, we would walk to Chula Vista shopping center and spend the day hanging out, laughing and talking. Little did I know that was going to change forever.
One night three years ago, my grandmother checked out for good. Around three in the morning I heard fast and loud tapping on the walls in the living room. The rest of my family woke up and we went to see what the tapping was. It was my grandmother.
She was either tapping with her nails or scratching the walls. It got worse, to the point where she forgot my name, tried to hit us or talked about random things that made no sense. It progressively got worse until we didn’t know how to handle her and took her to the emergency room to figure out what was wrong.
I was sitting in the waiting room. My foot was tapping anxiously, wanting to know what the results were. All of a sudden my mother came out my grandmother’s hospital room with heartbreak written all over her face. When our eyes met, there was an empty, sadness within them.
We were told she had dementia and she that was never going to be her old self anymore.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I just layed in bed and stared at the ceiling. The words “she’s gone” began to haunt me.
Dementia, according to the National Institute of Aging, is: “the loss of cognitive functioning like thinking, remembering and reasoning, and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities […] Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions and their personalities may change.”
Even though I’m only 15, I feel like I’ve lost an abundance of time. Time goes by fast and with multiple homework assignments and tests, one important thing was pushed to the back of my mind. My family. With these priorities, I’ve lost time with my family.
The news was slowly breaking me down both physically and mentally every day. I didn’t want to eat or do homework. This situation took over my mind and had me falling behind in school. I knew that I had to be strong and work hard for her since she would want me to, so I tried. I remember sitting in my desk, but only being there physically and not mentally. It felt like my soul had left my body and all that was left was skin and bones.
As each day passed, I would find myself sad, stressed, or crying for no reason. All the ‘should haves’ and ‘could haves’ ran through my mind, wishing I had spent more time with her and made more memories. From that moment on, I knew that I had to take good care of her like she did when I was growing up.
However, as First Light Homecare explains, “Caregivers report a greater number of physical and emotional health problems and worse overall wellness compared with non-caregivers. Levels of psychological distress are significantly higher in dementia caregivers than in other types of caregiving.”
It breaks my heart knowing I will never have the same conversations or spending days just talking and drinking coffee with my grandma when I was sick. Knowing that my relationship with her would change since she was no longer coherent was something I couldn’t bear.
Although I can’t change the past, I plan on actively choosing to cherish the time I have with my family members, and I hope that others do too, because it can all be taken away in an instant.