Lost memories

Published 7:00 am Thursday, September 4, 2014

I have spent a lifetime creating memories.

I remember kicking a little boy in kindergarten because he was making fun of me.

It’s a very vivid memory for me, possibly because I got into a lot of trouble for my actions.

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I remember summer vacations with my family, high school and college graduation, births, weddings and funerals.

These memories and life experiences have helped to shape and mold the person I am today.

But what happens when these memories are taken away?

I have witnessed three out of four grandparents suffer from a variation of dementia.

According to alz.org, dementia is the term used for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life.

My maternal grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s during my junior year of high school. She rarely knew who we were, but the last time I saw her alive, my grandfather had just planted a big kiss on her lips and she smiled the biggest smile I have ever seen. That’s one memory I don’t want to forget.

For the past few years, her husband, my grandfather, suffered from dementia. He was in great shape physically and received around the clock care in his home. Sadly, it had been years since he recognized any of us. But he always had a smile on his face and could still carry on a great conversation about World War II. He passed away this past January at the ripe old age of 94.

Now there’s my paternal grandmother, my Maw Maw. She is the last surviving grandparent I have. She is suffering from vascular dementia.

According alz.org, this type of dementia is a decline in thinking skills caused by conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain.

She is a strong woman who birthed 14 children and is grandmother to about 33 of us and 11 great-grandchildren. Sadly, she doesn’t recognize any of us the majority of the time.

She has trouble speaking and is often afraid or nervous when visitors are around.

We learned this week that she is becoming more unresponsive.

It’s not easy watching the ones you love slip away mentally.

Dementia is a cruel disease that not only robs the victim of memories, but also the family members that remember who he or she used to be.

For myself, I will remember the good times spent with all of my grandparents, I will not allow dementia to win.

Learn more about dementia at www.alz.org.