My grandpa always finds a way to crack a joke. Even in serious conversations, he can make anybody laugh.
A few years ago, my grandpa started distancing himself from the rest of the family. It was extremely bizarre and unlike him. Any attempts to make conversation were quickly brushed away. He preferred being alone.
At first, we thought he was depressed after moving to California and leaving behind his home country of Mexico. But when my dad caught my grandpa having a full back-and forth conversation with the TV, we knew it was something much worse. We took him to the doctor.
My grandfather was diagnosed with dementia. Hearing the diagnosis was hard to accept. I’ve heard of dementia but the idea of it ever happening to anybody in my family seemed surreal.
My family had questions: How could this happen to him? Was there anything we could do? How long before he completely loses his memory?
It’s been two years since my grandfather’s diagnosis and every day is different. His illness has progressed substantially. Now, we hear him talk for hours to imaginary people. Even when he’s with family, he often excuses himself instead of interacting with us.
While his day-to-day care has gotten harder, I’ve found some peace of mind unexpectedly through this process. I know this sounds weird, but when grandpa is in conversation with imaginary people, he’s laughing and smiling. They aren’t real, but they seem to bring him a lot of happiness. In those moments, it’s just like he’s back in Mexico, talking with his friends the way he always did.
It’s taken some time, but I’ve come to terms with my grandpa’s illness. As the days go by and my grandpa slips farther and farther away, I realize just how precious my time with family really is, and it’s brought me closer to my mom, dad and sisters. It’s clear that in hard times, we will always be there for one another.
This story was originally published on November 27, 2019.