Saturday, September 04, 2004

Alzheimer's is evil

I have five days off this weekend, and we are having a family reunion of sorts. My step Grandma has Alzheimer's, and it has gotten so bad that my Grandpa just can't deal with it anymore. She went into a nursing home Thursday, and we are all going to our family farm in Southern IL to help him get his life back in order.

We tried everything we could to keep her out, but she blatantly refused to move in with any of us. They are 90, and the toll it has taken on my Grandpa is shocking. He is not an "old" 90. In fact, people would think he was around 60 by looking at him. Ahhh yes, we do have good skin in our family, and I've had people accused us of being vampires due to how we don't seem to age.

It is almost humane that my step-G can't really remember anything. Her "blood" family has abandoned her as her disease has progressed, and it is something that breaks my heart on a daily basis. I think part of the reason why she wouldn't move in with any of us was the utter lack of compassion that her family has shown. They never asked her to move in with them, and basically wrote her off once they realized they would not get a cent when she and my Grandpa passed on....

It is the ugliest side of human nature I have ever seen, and very much out of the norm for what I have experienced in my life. People in my family tend to live long, productive lives, so I haven't had to deal with death and disease. I've always heard that death can bring out the worst in people, but this is the first time in my life I've experienced it as an adult.

My biological Grandma was an energetic woman way ahead of her time. During WWII she opened a restaurant while she waited the return of my Grandpa. Once the war was over most women returned to their lives as wives and Mothers. Not my Grandma. She used to say all the time, "They tried to push us back in the kitchen, but no one could push me hard enough."

She opened two more restaurants and was extremely successful. More successful then my Grandpa, but he didn't care. He always said what kind of idiot wouldn't want a wife that helped them lead a better life? I guess he was pretty progressive too. He also had a fairly nice nest egg from family money, so maybe that helped him be more secure with a wife that more then tripled his salary.

My Grandma was one of those people that people want to be around. People loved her. She said what she thought and did what she said. She died when I was six, but I still have memories of her at her restaurants talking and laughing with people. Memories of her smoking a stoggie and winning huge piles of chips while playing poker with a bunch of men. She had that forties glamour air about her, and people just melted.

My Grandparents had one of those crazy, passionate loves for each other. They bickered like hell, but you could just tell there was a love deeper then the ocean there. My Grandma was diagnosed with Diabetes in her late 30's. Unfortunately her lust for life didn't fit in with living a clean and healthy lifestyle required when you are a bad Diabetic. She still drank her highballs, ate whatever she wanted, and drank her beloved Pepsi by the case.

She may have lived life to the fullest, but this lifestyle caused her to have a heart attack and die at the young age of 51. I remember when I was little this seemed so old, and it is shocking how young it seems to me now.

I vividly remember her funeral, even though I was six years old. It was held in a small, North West Indiana town, and it was the most people I have ever seen in my life. They had to bring in police from 3 different towns in the area just to direct traffic. There was a damn waiting line at the wake. People couldn't go in until others left, due to fire codes. It was an amazing site.

To not be a celebrity type person and have that many people care about you. Can you imagine? I remember later that year Elvis died, and when I saw the throngs of crying people and flowers on the news, it reminded me of my Grandmother's funeral.

My Grandpa was so distraught. I remember when I would wake up for school his car would be in the driveway, waiting for us to get up. He had spent a lot of time taking care of my Grandmother, as the disease ravished her body those last few years of her life. He didn't know what to do without her. He was in a deep depression, and only left our house to sleep.

About a year after she died, my step Grandma came into the picture. He had known her his whole life, and she was actually one of my Grandma's dearest friends. She was the polar opposite of my Grandma. Quiet and reserved, she was the wallflower no one ever noticed at the dance, while my Grandma was the one demanding the attention of the entire room.

My Grandma was a great philanthropist, and this is how she became friends with my step-G. My step-G had a less then exceptional existance. Her husband was a drunk who gambled every dime he could get his hands on. My step-G spent most of her life hording money so that she could feed her two boys. When he died, he left her with nothing but the clothes on her back, and unfortunately her sons had followed in their Father's footsteps. My Grandma knew how down and out she was, so she would regularily bring food and clothes to my step-G and her sons.

My Grandpa started spending a lot of time with step-G, and he seemed to come out of his funk. He matched my Grandma's passion for life, and it had returned. Six months later, they were married. My Mother was thrilled for my Grandpa, as she worried he would die of a broken heart.

There were many people who were not thrilled about this though. Many people had undying loyalty to my Grandma, and thinking that he could be with another woman made many people livid. People were still morning my Grandmother's death, and they treated my Grandpa like he was a cheating, no good husband, even though it had been a year and a half since her death.

Grandpa retired and moved to the family farm in Southern IL to take care of his own Father. He loved it down there, and happily would have lived his whole life on that farm. My Grandma found it boring and dull, so he had foresaken the life down there to please her. Step-G absoultley loved it on the farm, so it was the perfect place for the two of them to retire. It was also away from the prying eyes of the people who had a newfounded disdain for my Grandpa and his new bride.

It took awhile to get used to my step-G, as she was so different then my Grandma. My Grandma would take us to Chinatown in Chicago and buy us crickets in little boxes. We would explore the streets and the people and the food. She would buy my sister and I pretty dresses that made us look like real life baby dolls. She would take us to the Christmas Even auction and buy us whatever we wanted, much to my parents dismay. Even as her illness progressed, we would go on amazing adventures and meet amazing people.

My step-G would find all of this frivolous and a waste. I can remember her and my Grandpa arguing viciously because my Grandpa had bought my brother a two scoop ice cream cone. She thought this was decadent and a total waste of money. Did I say they were polar opposites?

My Sister had the worst time excepting my step-G. She is way more materialistic then the rest of us, and this new woman did not meet her requirements. She was also the first Grandchild, so she had spent more time and was way more spoiled then the rest of us, which is saying a lot, considering how much she spoiled my brother and I. When my sister joined band, my Grandma bought her a solid gold flute. Nothing was to good for my sister in my Grandmother's eyes.

Now I'm not trying to paint step-G as some frugal prude. She was a kind and warm human being, and was much more "grandmotherly" in the traditional sense. Like my friend's grandmas, she knitted and cooked and had lots of hugs. Now that I'm older, I realize that people who had nothing appreciate it a lot more when they have something, and they usually take nothing for granted.

Her sons must have been salivating when she married my Grandpa, and I do know they hit them up for money many, many times. My step-G wasn't as frugal when it came to her side of the family, and she helped them out quite a bit. They still were nothing more then low life losers, and they took advantage of my Grandpa and her's generosity every instant they could.

One thing they didn't know was my Grandpa had made arrangements before they got married on how everything would be split in the event of a death. He didn't feel comfortable with her sons receiving the fruits of my biological Grandmother's hard work, and step-G agreed to these terms when they got married. He had her sign an iron clad Pre-nup from hell basically, and all her family would get was what she brought into the marriage: her personal belongings.

Well about a year ago the sons found out about this, and they were none to happy as you might imagine. The Alzheimer's had started to really destroy, and my step-G was going downhill fast. We all tried to get to the farm when we could, because my Grandpa was having trouble controlling her. She would have violent outbursts that left my Grandpa bloody. My parents tried to get them to move in with them, but my step-G went into hysterics whenever it was mentioned.

My Grandpa refused to put her in a "home." We didn't understand how horrible they were, he said. He wouldn't give up until he just couldn't protect her anymore, he said. So my parents and my Mother's siblings took turns going there for the weekend, to help out.

One weekend one of her sons said they were going. He was with his wife, and he took my Grandpa out to lunch while his wife stayed behind to watch step-G. They in turn loaded up a huge van while my Grandpa was away, and ripped them off of everything that was of value, including the jewerly my Grandpa kept that was my Grandma's. They also took a bible that had been in our family for six generations.

My Grandpa realized what they were doing when he got back and tried to stop them, but they simply got in the van and left. He called my Mom dispondent, and she convinced him to call the police. They were long gone at this point, taking what I guess they believed to be their part of the inheritance early.

This is the last time my Grandpa has had contact with her side of the family. He has called them despite what they did whenever my step-G would take a turn for the worst, but they never call back. He called them to tell them that he had to put her into a nursing home if they wouldn't help, but his pleas were in vain. He knew she would agree to move in with one of them, but her own children had no desire to help her in her time of need.

How anyone could treat their own Mother this was is beyond me. It almost makes me lose faith in humanity. I now realize what a sheltered life I have led and how lucky I am to have the family that I have. I just hope that step-G is gone enough to not know how the final years of her life have turned out.

Wow, what started as a short post about going to my Grandpa's for the weekend sure took a long tangent. I guess I just needed to vent.

*edited later to add* We did get our family bible back from the terrible son. My Mother, who definitely has taken after her own Mother, knows many, many people, and they all love her. Like her Mother, they are from all walks of life, and sometimes you don't want to know what path people walk, just accept them as good friends.

My prissy Mother became friends with some people in a biker "club", (boy is that another post) and when they learned about what had happened they went to have a little talk with the son. We don't know what happened, don't want to know what happened, but my Mother received a registered package from a dude named "Spike" that contained her family bible. It takes all kinds in this world, it certainly does.

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