Wednesday, October 14, 2009
AZ Weekend Trip
As you saw from my last post, I went to Arizona for a quick trip this last weekend. Not only did I get to see my sister's play, but the other highlight for me was being able to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa Mills. I had not seen them since June 2006.
Having grown up seeing them ALL the time, this is a long time for me. My grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease about 10 years ago. My grandma first found out when the school he was teaching at called and said he couldn't teach anymore. I remember being told that my grandpa had this disease, but he seemed the same to me when I saw him, so it did not really phase me when I would see him. Slowly over the years, as you know, the disease gets worse. Next he had to stop flying his airplane and he sold his plane. This was so sad, he had a passion for flying and teaching. He was a very smart man. Next he had to stop working his odd jobs. Next came driving. He knew he would not be able to renew his license, so he sold his corvette to my dad. My grandpa LOVED his corvettes. I drove that car once... it is a nice ride. Then he had to stop riding his bike. My grandpa used to get up at 4am every morning and bike 10 miles. He has always been in excellent shape.
When I went to visit them last, my grandpa was at home and still able to move around fine and I was able to stay with them. He could not say any nouns at that point, but was still able to say some things and I knew he knew who I was. He would go over to the tray of candy and grab some and then come put it in my hand and say "here you go" and then would just smile at me. I thought it was so cute. I knew my grandma was under a lot of stress at even that point taking care of him the best that she could. She may have had someone that came for a couple hours a day at that point, but that was it. Since that trip, I knew that my grandpa was put in a home (about 5 months ago) where they care for only patients that have Alzheimer's because my grandma could not lift him and he was having trouble getting up.
Well, this last weekend after my mom and sister Lori came to pick me up from the airport, we went straight to my grandmas house. She was so excited to see us, as we were to see her. You could tell she is so much happier and not as stressed. We visited for an hour or so and then she took us out to lunch to Mimi's. My grandparents always love to go out to eat and take their family out to eat. We had a lot of fun talking and watching William. Lori blew the wrapper off of the straw and William thought that was pretty cool, so Lori had him try it. She told him to blow like a whistle and off the wrapper flew across the table. I thought it was so cute/ funny that I had to get a picture. I love his little facial expressions. After lunch we went to the care center to visit my grandpa. I don't know what I was expecting, I had heard of the state he was in, but I think it is totally different seeing it for yourself. When we got there I was very impressed with the home. It is really nice and the patients have a lot of freedom... in fact, there was another lady sleeping on my grandpa's bed when we went to see his room. ha ha. I guess that happens all the time. His room is great. My aunt Brenda put up a big frame that has lots of different pictures of all of his kids and grand kids and great grand kids. We then walked to the eating area and there was my grandpa at the table. He saw us and started to wine and cry, but I think because he was so happy to see us. As soon as I saw him and heard him cry I started to cry. I couldn't hold it back. I understand how my dad feels every time he sees him now. I tried hard to hold back the tears and smiled at him and gave him a big hug and kiss on the head and told him I loved him. We then spent the rest of our hour or so together outside. It is hard to tell, but I think he recognized me and my sister and my mom. Of course he knows my grandma, she visits him for a couple hours everyday to take care of him. But I could just feel that he knew who I was. He kept winking at me and he came to sit by me for a little while. We sang to him and he tried to sing and mouth some of the words to ABC. Other than that, the only word I think he says is "ya". He has a hard time walking, standing up and sitting down takes a lot longer than it used to. He loved Lori's baby William. In fact... so did everyone else at the home. They all came and joined us outside and they all could not stop looking at him and saying how cute he was. It was so great to be able to go and spend time with my grandpa. Who knows how much time he has left. It is so hard to tell with Alzheimer's disease.
I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for my grandma. She has spent a big part of her life taking care of her husband. It became VERY hard, but she never gave up. Putting him in a home was a hard decision for her, she felt guilt for two months. Although he is in a home now, she is still there EVERYDAY to take care of him and not only him, but she gets the greatest joy out of making the other patients happy too. She is the most giving and caring person that I have ever met. I love my grandparents so much and have learned what true love is by grandma's example. I would like to think that I would do the same thing as my grandma, love my husband so much that even when it got hard and he maybe did not even recognize me anymore or could not talk to me anymore, that I would still be there for him, love him and take care of him. My grandma is truly an amazing woman. Sorry this post is so long... I just went through a lot of emotions going to visit my grandpa. So glad I was able to visit and spend time with them.