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A Forgotten Brother

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[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]I have a brother who is 60 years older than me. He is almost 80, and it clearly shows with his wrinkled skin and hazel eyes lightened from taking various medications. During brief moments of lucidity he knows that I am not really his sister, but that’s not important to him. Sometimes I am his niece, but that is also insignificant. What matters is that I am a recognizable face in a world filled with strangers. My grandfather has stage six Alzheimer’s, a condition that will make him forget me altogether one day.

My grandfather, my nana-bapa, is my mother’s father. At first glance, he seems like a normal and healthy elderly man. He is quiet at times but still physically fit. His mind is his only flaw. He wants to remember, but he cannot. He is constantly searching for a place of contentment. This is what Alzheimer’s does to him. It takes away his house and swaps it for a hospital-like nursing home; it steals his memories while deteriorating his mind; it takes the dignity of an old-man and replaces his thoughts with that of a child.

Nana-bapa used to live with my uncle, my mom’s youngest brother and his family. To them, my grandfather has already lived his life. “Don’t eat that, and don’t touch that,” my aunt and uncle would say to him every day in an effort to keep control over the situation. More confused, my grandfather would retreat to his room and sit in isolation. One day I got up the courage to tell my uncle how I really felt.

“You should speak to your parents more respectfully. They raised you when you were a child, shouldn’t you at least care for them now?” I blurted the statement in an instant, immediately cursing myself for my candor.

“You don’t know anything,” he rebutted in his usual demeaning manner, but I understood enough to know that my nana-bapa was still a human who deserved more care because of his condition, not less.

“Think with your mind, not with your heart,” my uncle stated, ending the conversation. But how can I not think with my heart for my innocent grandfather who is stuck in a constant state of uncertainty?

I cried the day my nana-bapa moved into a nursing home. All he had ever wanted was to be around accustomed faces in a recognizable environment, but they took it away from him because he cannot live according to the rules of society.

The nursing home he was thrown in can almost be mistaken as a jail. There are set times for eating, they don’t have any freedoms, and the smell is horrifying. The only difference is that prisoners have committed crimes, while the elderly people staying at Heritage Gardens are innocent seniors living their last moments alone. However, it is not a solution to my nana-bapa’s “issue.” He still forgets what he had to eat for lunch, he can’t recall names, and he still waits for God to take him.

I changed when nana-bapa was moved to the distant world of senior living. I morphed into an adult as he transformed into a state of childlike confusion, but my emotional state of hopelessness and worry remained immature, unable to grasp the severity of the situation. When he moved, I no longer saw his eager face waiting for me at church, he seemed more drowsy and less talkative. I lost hope in him, as if there was no way he could get better after living in such an environment. He faded into an innocent young state of ignorance instead of being of the wise, old-man I once knew.

My nana-bapa can easily be mistaken for a child now. He is scared of the dark and refuses to sleep until I turn on a night light. He doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong, and he lives in a constant state of imagination. But his childlike state doesn’t protect him because he is the infant that no one wants to keep. The nursing home is his orphanage. An orphanage that his old family never visits. I convinced him that my uncle sold their old home and that this is where he had to live from now on. He seems to believe my fictional tale at moments, but at other times he searches for his brother and his real home.

For all the ways that I try to help him, nothing seems to work. His condition gets worse by the day, and I am afraid that one day my face will join the long list of forgotten names. I cannot do anything to make his disease go away. I cannot make people love him and keep him in their home, but I can always be his familiar face and ease his confusion so that he is not facing Alzheimer’s alone. I am his sister or his niece or whatever satisfies his longing to remember.

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Hebron High School News Online
A Forgotten Brother