There is a time when we are no longer in control of our memory. There is a time when we cannot remember who we love, who we are, or the life we’re living. As age increases, memory decreases. There are few times in our lives where we really get to appreciate having a memory. It’s one of those things when you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. Alzheimer’s Disease is a disease that causes someone to lose their memory completely. Alzheimer’s has effected my family on a very personal level, but it has allowed me to see how special the human memory is, and how brilliant we are.
My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease when I was about 10 years old. The first year, he was forgetting where his keys were, where he put his hat, where his golf clubs were. The next year he didn’t have his license, couldn’t play golf as much, stayed home more. When I was 15 years old he passed away, and through those 5 years, I saw a memory get depleted. I was once “Annie”, but in the end, he could no longer put a name to my face. He couldn’t remember who I was or the rest of my family for that matter. It was heartbreaking.
One Thanksgiving, a good 2 or 3 years after he had been diagnosed, he surprised everyone. We were all at the table, and he told a story. There were things that my grandfather would never ever speak of, not even with my grandmother. My grandfather was a Prisoner of War in World War II to the Japanese, and spent time in a prison camp for quite a few years. This was something he could never speak of. He didn’t even like hearing the words. However, on this Thanksgiving night, he began to tell the story. He told us where he was, all the friends he lost, how hungry he was. He could remember the most discrete details. No one moved from the table. I’ll never forget that night.
That night not only showed me a completely new side to my grandfather, who we called Buddy, but it taught me how fascinating the memory was. In the midst of forgetting where his car keys were, and forgetting where he put his golf gloves and clubs, he could sit down, and recall probably the toughest few years of his life like it was yesterday. The human memory just can’t be fully understood. I was floored not only at the story, but the fact that he brought the topic up, and told us one of the most interesting stories I will probably ever hear.
From that point on, memory was given a completely new meaning in my heart. A meaning of admiration and fascination.