It was my grandfather’s eighty eighth birthday a few weeks ag. He arrived with my parents at the restaurant, sat down and promptly tried to remove his teeth. I wished him a happy birthday and then asked him why it was that he was taking his teeth out at the table.

“Well, there wasn’t enough room in the car to take them out there.”

I couldn’t really argue this point.

The night went well. My grandfather was in a pretty good mood for the most part. He hadn’t wanted to go out in the first place but he liked the company once he was there. He couldn’t remember why it was that everyone was gathered (we had to keep reminding him that it was his birthday). He enjoyed the cake though, and every single time someone said ‘Happy Birthday’ to him he would beam a huge smile and thank the person. That was a good night.

The other night wasn’t such a good night. Papa got up to go to the washroom and when he got back he was screaming. He was screaming at my parents, the people that he now lives with, about how nobody at that facility took proper care of him, how they were all just taking his money and leaving him unattended. Finally my mother got him to take an anti-psychotic and got him to lay down. The next day he awoke and every thing was fine. All was right in the world of Papa.

My wife and I arrived later that day for Easter dinner. Like most times, I introduced Papa to my wife. Like most times, he said that he didn’t know that I was married and he would have liked to have gone to the wedding. He did.

My grandfather suffers from a form of dementia known as Dementia with Lewy Bodies. What happens is within the areas of the brain that control motor functions and memory there is a build up of Lewy bodies (alpha-synuclein protein) in the nuclei of neurons. When this happens symptoms that can resemble both Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s are triggered.

For the most part, my grandfather seems to act as if it is about 25 years ago. He still tries to get up and get ready for work almost every day and can get very agitated when someone tries to explain to him that he is retired. I’ve tried to understand this. I’ve tried to put myself in his shoes.

Imagine that you are just going about your routine…getting yourself ready for your day just the same way that you always do….and then someone tells you that you don’t work anymore (ok…maybe this would be a bit of a pleasant dream for some of us). Not only do you not work, but you haven’t worked in decades. You wouldn’t believe them…not for one second. You would know that you have to go to work. Anything other would be ridiculous.

This is the world for my grandfather now. He is rarely in the same moment as the people that he spends his time with now. Now he keeps company with people that argue with him and are constantly correcting him about things that he knows to be true. These people are constantly moving around on him. One moment a chair will be occupied by his son and the next it will be his son-in-law…or his grandson.

I miss my grandfather. I miss the man that used to spend hours playing checkers with me. The man that would take me to the park or take me fishing. I miss my Papa. I miss him taking me to visit his brothers. His brothers who are all now long dead, but he still seems to think he just saw yesterday. I see little glimpses of him every once in awhile, but it gets harder each time. More and more he is being replaced with a doddering old man and it breaks my heart.

I hope he isn’t aware of what is happening. I hope that he doesn’t know how much it hurts all off us to see him that way. The man that I remember and love would hate to know how hard it is for all of us.

Whenever he gets argumentative, whenever he gets difficult…I try to remind myself all of this. He is like a child now…he needs patience. He needs care.

I just want my Papa back and I know that I’m never going to get him back again.


6 Responses to “Francis”

  1. just love him and be patient …. the part of him you miss will recognize … cause this part is still there…..

  2. I can’t even imagine going through that. I am so sorry you have to. Has anyone ever thought of making something like a scrapbook for him of some of his favorite memories? It might amuse him and help you maintain the memories of the man you miss..just a thought. 🙂

  3. When I was reading this, I felt like I was reading my thoughts about my recently deceased grandma. My family moved from canada back to their homeland Scotland in 1998. My grandma was 85 at the time and totally “with it”….she cooked dinner for us, kept herself busy by housecleaning and loved gonig shopping on her own….fast forward a few months and she almost set my parents new house on fire because she wasn’t used to the gas stove they now had, she’d be putting dishes in the freezer after cleaning and frozen food in the cupboards….not to mention that Scottish roads are “backwards” so her going out on her own quickly got stopped……

    You wrote this very well and couldn’t have thought it better myself.

    • moegreeb Says:

      Papa did much the same thing a few weeks ago when he tried to make my grandmother (who has Alzheimer’s…blech) tea and put the electric kettle on the stove.

  4. Abbie (cheekiemunkey) Says:


    First, I want to say thanks for the many laughs you’ve given me. As I’ve told you before, you always brighten my day with your tweets and blogs.

    Now to this entry. Don’t give up Chris! Your Papa IS still there. Just maybe differently than you remember. By profession I am the nurse for an assisted living community that only accepts residents with Alzheimer’s and all forms of dementia, including Lewy Body. Every day I watch as my residents lose a little piece of their former selves, but WHO they are, doesn’t change. The executive that dresses for the office, who retired 30 years ago. The mother looking for her young children, who are long since grown. The playboy, still charming the ladies, not knowing that the ladies are his caretakers. They laugh, they cry, they get so confused and scared that they lash out. Even when they loose the ability to speak and seemingly forget the ones they love, they will respond to kindness, a gentle touch and a smile.
    So, in part you are right, the Papa you’ve always known has changed. But somewhere in the web of dementia, the core of him that loves you and your family is there and it always will be.


  5. Aurora00 Says:

    Really touching…do you tell him you love him when you see him? I hope so..:-). I think these conditions are so hard on everyone because you are kind of forced to mourn the person, yet they are still alive. Really tough.

    I never really knew any of my grandparents
    – they lived in the UK and I saw them only every few years. This makes me wish I could have known them better.

    Excellent job..*hugs*

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