Feb 11, 2011

The Man Who Knew Me

“Hi PopPop. It’s me.” I say gazing into the eyes of a man robbed of everything precious to him. A man wiped of memories. A man consumed by Alzheimer’s. My hero, my PopPop taken away from me by Alzheimer’s.

By Danielle Tessa Scott

The Man Who Knew Me
A warm breeze blows across my freckle-filled face as I emerge from behind the airport doors. The palm trees sway to the beat of the breeze, swooshing through the dry, warm night air. Its midnight yet there isn’t a chill in this night air. The warmth of a Texas night embraces my whole body, hugging my every curve, washing over me. Then the ice cold air of the Lincoln MKZ hits me flat in the face. Into my Nana’s car I climb.

The lights burl by as we speed down the bump-filled road to her one-story home. I know we are home when the sound the tires go from gliding over pavement to rolling over my Nana’s cobblestone drive. The garage door lifts up just in time for us to pull into the drive way.

My PopPop’s boxes sit there, lonely and untouched, just waiting for the day when he returns home. So am I.

I open the faded door. A grey and black speeding blob races towards me. Mitzi. My Nana’s built-in, fuzzy alarm system, that barks at the sound of a pin dropping, now that she lives alone. I wander through her tidy house, waiting. Waiting for him. Waiting to see his worn face and his silver white hair. Waiting to hear him call me Danyeller. Waiting for a hug, a hug so powerful it takes your breath away.

But then I remember. I guess I’ll just have to keep waiting.

Three towering flag poles frame the entrance to the building. The building where he is. The automatic doors part in front of me. I hesitate, afraid to continue. Afraid of what I will see, but more afraid of what I will not see and will never be able to see again. Bright, vibrant blue eyes, full of life, joy, and knowledge that sparkle if you catch them in the right light. Shiny, silky white hair. An aged face framed by square glasses, still full of promise and love. The face of the man who once knew me. The face of my PopPop.

I drift down the hallway to his wing, seemly taking days to do such a simple task. Like I am stuck in something dense and unforgiving. There it is. Standing tall in all its shininess. Taunting me. Egging me to come forward and knock. Provoking me to step through it and face the harsh reality. So I do.

All of a sudden, there I am. Standing in a room full of men and women who, at one time, put their lives on the line for this country that we reside in. People who sacrificed everything to make this country a better place for their children and their childrens’ children. They were selfless, so why are they the ones who have to suffer now? Why are they the ones that have to lose it all? Where is the fairness in that? I still don’t know.

And then all thoughts fade away, into the background of my clouded brain, because I see him. The man who inspired me and whom I looked up to for years. The man who taught me everything I know, minute as it is, about construction and handy work. There he sits in one of the many worn and tattered chairs. Gazing straight ahead at the television in front of him, but not hearing a word of it.

Then before I know it I am looking at his grey-blue eyes hidden behind square glasses, snow-white hair, chin unshaven with stubble, ears that are too big, and a heartfelt smile spread across his worn and weathered face. Extra-large t-shirts, white undershirts, sweatpants, and black crocks messily draped on his body. Skin dry and forgotten, lips chapped and cracking, fingernails yellowy and uncut.

But who stares back?

The man I have known and loved for eighteen years of my life? No. A man who is a shadow of his former self stares back. Empty emotionless eyes swimming with questions, searching for answers. Who is this person looking at me? I have seen their face before, I have heard their voice, but why don’t I know their name or how I know them?

Why don’t I know how they know me?

“Hi PopPop. It’s me…” I say gazing into the eyes of a man robbed of everything precious to him. A man wiped of memories. A man consumed by Alzheimer’s. My hero, my PopPop taken away from me by Alzheimer’s.

Danielle Tessa Scott is 18 years old, and a freshman at Saint Michaels College. She majors in Biology and intends to pursue a career in a field related to physical therapy. Daniell'a grandfather Harold Wellington Smith Jr., PopPop, is 82 years old and currently lives in Alfredo Gonzalez Texas State Veterans Home, McAllen, Texas. She grew-up and currently livea in the house that he designed and built with his own two hands.
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Original content Danielle Tessa Scott , the Alzheimer's Reading Room