Grandma: I now have what you call “muffins”.
Grandma: My stomach is blubbery and turned into muffins.
Me: Do you mean a “muffin top”? You have a muffin top?
Grandma: Yes, I have muffins.
I speak to my grandmother almost every day and typically an exchange like the one above happens every time I talk to her. Our conversations are never boring. My favorite is when she asked me how my “blah” was doing. You know, that thing I’m writing this post on right now? I’m extremely close to my grandmother and the past few months have been challenging for all of us. She broke her back in multiple places and refused to take painkillers and her live-in boyfriend of twelve years, Lionel, is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. The excruciating pain mixed with Grandma’s belief that Lionel is acting forgetful to spite her made her a raging bitch for awhile. Now the pain has subsided and she can walk vertically, but Lionel’s Alzheimer’s is not getting better. I guess we all secretly think it will stop or regress and we’re constantly surprised when it gets a little worse.
Lionel won’t stop buying ice cream.
Grandma will send him to the grocery store one mile away to pick up milk or broccoli and he’ll come back three hours later with three gallons of ice cream and nothing else.
“I can’t fit anything else in my freezer!” my grandma explains to me. “It’s full of ice cream!”
Recently, Grandma sent Lionel to the store to buy potatoes and he came back with a pumpkin pie. Sweets make Lionel happy and he eats them all of the time. He also sleeps all of the time. Needless to say Lionel is getting F-A-T.
I asked Grandma if Lionel is depressed and she says that when she asks Lionel if he’s depressed, he says “no”. However, the doctors say he’ll get depressed. And he’ll get frustrated. And he’ll get angry. And he’ll get confused.
And all of those things have happened.
“You should have heard him swearing at me earlier today!” my grandmother tells me. “He sounded like a sailor! You sounded like a sailor, Lionel!”
I hear the familiar baritone of Lionel’s laughter in the background.
When I talk to Lionel on the phone he seems happy. Truthfully, he sounds 100% normal. The only way I know something is wrong is when my grandmother tells me he drives across the street, parks his car in the church parking lot and falls asleep on a near daily basis. Or when he goes to the dry cleaners around the corner and comes back at 6:30PM at night. Or when the doctors tell my grandmother it’s only going to get worse and there will come a point where she can’t take care of him anymore.
Yesterday, my mother told me that Lionel’s five sons are talking about putting him in a home. The oldest and wealthiest son wants to put Lionel in a home close to him in Vermont- where our fear is that few will come to visit Lionel. Lionel’s two adopted sons want to put him in a home in central New York which is close to everyone (two sons in Vermont, one son in Boston, one in Syracuse, one in New Jersey and my family in central New York). The adopted sons don’t even want to put him in a home, but they understand that the time to do so is getting closer. I don’t think any of us have come to terms with the idea yet. Yes, Lionel was a huge pain in the ass before he got ill and yes, my family (Grandma included) never really liked Lionel, but we grew to love him. Though life without Lionel will be easier, it will not be as full…and I’m dreading the day he won’t recognize any of us.
If you want to get to know Grandma and Lionel, watch a video I made about them here.
Have you had personal experiences with Alzheimer’s?