Today, my 89-year-old grandma asked me how my brother Ryan was.
My beautiful brother passed away four years ago, from complications with alcohol addiction. Mum told me that Grandma asks about Ryan every time she goes to visit — and every time, Mum has to break the news to her that he is no longer here.
Watching a loved one’s mind fizz away with dementia is heartbreaking. I can’t comment on what it would be like for someone living with dementia, but I imagine it would be frustrating beyond words. That is, until it gets to a point when you no longer know that you’ve got it — and forget that you forget things.
The only good thing about having dementia, is that sometimes you also forget the greatest tragedies in your life. My grandma lost her husband to cancer, her son to a car accident and a grandson (my brother), all in the last 10 years. But she never talks about it. Not because she doesn’t care, but because she’s forgotten it ever happened.
As hard as it is seeing a family member’s mind deteriorate, for my grandma, it’s almost a blessing for her in some way — she no longer has to feel incredible sadness and loss. That pain has been forgotten.
So when she asked, “How is Ryan doing?” it was like someone had just kicked me in the guts. But I said, “He’s good, Grandma.”
She then smiled and asked for a black coffee. Ignorance is bliss.