Saturday, March 07, 2009

Memories...Fickle Little Things

I don't know if I've really mentioned here how bad my Grandpa's memory has gotten. A year ago, he remembered a lot, but had many forgetful moments. Now, he barely remembers anything. It's been really hard to see him start to go this way. For a LONG time he didn't remember that his wife had died. On a daily basis we'd have to tell him, "Yes, Grandma died. Yes, you were there for her funeral. Yes, you got to say good-bye to her...." It was SO hard. He still has days when he forgets she's died. He has her funeral program on a little table by his recliner. He will rub it often.
The funny thing with his memory, though, is that he remembers things that he did a LONG time ago REALLY well. And he's funny when he tells you about the stories of his youth. He'll start out telling you the original story. Then he'll start saying something else, and for some reason he'll loop back to the first story he told you, only he makes it just a little better than what really happened. Then he'll start saying something else, and go BACK to that story, again, making it just a LITTLE more sensational than it was before. This loop continues for HOURS!
I try to visit him on a weekly basis. And usually I succeed. Yesterday, Steve and Cameron had days off, so we were going to go visit Grandma (my mom). As we drove to her house we drove past the facility where Grandpa lives and saw her car, so we decided to visit Grandpa as well.
While we were visiting, the facility performed their monthly (I think they do it monthly, anyway...) fire drill. It was LOUD and flashing lights everywhere. Grandpa looked at my mom and said, "What do we do?" Mom said that it was the fire alarm and we should get outside. (That IS what you do during a fire drill, right?)
So we all gathered up our little things and got coats on (the wind has been howling here lately...) and went to the nearest exit. The people who work at the facility were trying hard to get the fire alarm that they'd pulled to stop blaring, and we were the ONLY ones to go outside.
Grandpa lives on the backside of the building, so we took a LONG walk to get to the front to find out what was going on and if it was okay to go back inside. The whole walk back, Grandpa would ask, "Why do you suppose they did this TODAY?!" I told him it was to break up his day. *giggle*
Once we got to the front door, the people in charge were holding the doors open and telling us that it was okay to go back inside. They got the alarm turned off, and we went back to Grandpa's room where his memories of fire drills took over.
How is it, a man who doesn't remember WHO my baby is (he asks EVERY few minutes who's baby he is, and if he walks yet, commenting on how cute he is...) can remember a short little fire drill??
The story this time? When he moved to Caldwell (western Idaho) he went to high school. (When he lived here he went to a one roomed schoolhouse.) His first week at the high school they had a fire drill. It was the first time he'd ever been in one, and he was a little nervous that the school was actually going to burn down. I guess the school was completely made of wood, and was VERY flammable. The interesting thing about this fire drill was that the fire department had figured out a way to get smoke INTO the building.
This story repeated itself over and over. At one point, he told us that it wasn't at his high school that he'd had the was at a plant he worked at.
Yes, memories are funny things. I'm just SO glad I still have mine!


Elena said...

That's the funny thing about dimensia/alshiemers. They remember long term memories, but not short. When my Granny would act really scared and "lost", we'd start asking her about her childhood and it would calm her right down. It's the meanest disease EVER. Your poor grandpa.

cressfamily said...

You are so good to visit that often. We really need to get our act together and go visit more often

Kim said...

Wow, your story brings back a flood of memories. It's so frustrating when the people you love don't know you anymore. I am happy that I had the time I did with my grandmother before she got too sick, but there are more days that I wish she hadn't gotten sick and I would have been able to get to know her as a young woman.