Another childhood memories..
I did something that I have never done before.
I was even surprise with myself.
An old couple came.
The wife was holding the husband's hand.
The old man took forever to reach my table as I waited.
I knew what he has.
He has Dementia.
Thus I asked the wife and I was right.
So we talked a little about dementia.
She told me how her husband is like a small boy.
He walks very slow and his speech at times is incoherent.
'It is not just the walk auntie but his every movement will be slow. At times he can think of what to say but it is difficult for him to answer you. That is dementia. It takes time for you body to follow your brain. So just let him take his time'.
I understand her worries as much as I understand this disease first hand.
Imagine you being trapped in a body and brain which is failing you.
All the memories are fading away as the ability to move, think and talk are deteriorating.
As she was about to leave, she asked me another question.
"Doctor, is it common for dementia patient to have mood swings and throwing tantrum?He is acting like a small child already'.
I wish to tell her to be patience but I hate when someone tells me that especially when the person who is busy advising me has never experienced this situation.
So I explained,' They have mood swings because they feel frustrated with themselves and their ability to act as normal as before. They know that their health are failing them and they have no control over their body. Most of the times, they feel neglected because they are no longer the same. Very sensitive. Thinking everyone doesn't love them anymore, doesn't need them. They crave for attention and while their beloved ones provide that attention while juggling with a lot of chores, they think that wasn't enough'.
'My grandfather had Parkinson disease since I was in form 1. It was similar to dementia. I watched first hand how his health deteriorated.
Eventhough I was in form 2, a thin girl, with puny muscles, I was the only grandchild who was trusted to assist him to the bathroom or anywhere he wanted to go.He couldn't walk on his own or he would fall down as he has no control over his body'.
I paused as my voice broke.
Tears filled my eyes.
I felt embarassed but I have to give support to them.
I didn't like to talk about things that is important to my heart because composure is something I cling onto.
I also thought that I could mention about my grandfather without breaking down before I shared with this couple.
No wonder I don't talk to my husband about my grandfather or grandmother.
I prefer writing as I can bare my feelings without anyone looking at my expression.
I remembered those years in secondary school, I would come home after school and changed.
I usually would start studying from 3 p.m. to 5.30 or 6 p.m.
My study time was something I controlled which means I have to achieved my target hours.
Nobody would dare to disturb me at that time because I would get very annoyed.
Study mood is so important to me.
However, the only person who could knock on my door would be my 'tok' (grandmother).
She knew I was studying as she knocked softly to my door.
'Adik..' that was how she called me.
'Tokwan kencing basah tilam'.
She knocked softly because she knew she has been asking me too many times.
The thing was, she shouldn't feel guilty.
The few minutes that she took away from me was nothing compared to the time and energy she spend raising me since a baby.
I got up from my chair and went with the to her room. There it was my grandfather lying helplessly on the dirty sheet.
I just changed the linen yesterday. The old mattress was so heavy. I was small but I was a very determined child.
When all the others would say that they couldn't lift the mattress because it was too heavy, I never said a word.
I was always quiet and accepting when it comes to my responsibilities.
I held my grandfather and almost carried him to the bathroom where I showered him.
My grandmother was old. She was 70 plus.
She wanted to help changing the linen but I wouldn't let her bend her frail spine.
I was young and fresh and she wasn't.
I told the couple 'I was the only grandchild who had the strength to hold my grandfather tight to assist him with walking because the other grandchildren wouldn't hold him so tight and he would fall down so many times'.
I broke down again as I completed the sentences. Flashes of my grandfather falling on the floor, hitting his head, or banging his face to the window grill and lot more just the things I couldn't bare.
Imagine a helpless person who couldn't control his movement to slow down his fall or grab a furniture nearby as he watched himself fall.
We should have catched him. He depended on us.
I remembered how ferocious I was whenever anyone resulted to my grandfather falling. At 14 years old, I was already this scary. If I was right, I would say it even to my aunt and uncles.
I warned everyone not to assist him if you cannot even hold him properly. He shouldn't fall. Let me be the only one to do it if nobody are sincere enough.
He has no energy at all and he cannot support himself to stabilize his stand. How could you guys just hold his arm hand and walk?You should put you left hand around his back while your body support his body.
Everybody remained quiet.
As I am writing this and reminscing on how he broke his beautiful nose from banging the grill and the large hematoma he had on his head from falling in the bathroom, just bring back more tears.
A young girl could be an adult for the sake of protectiveness.
I was shorter than my grandfather but like I said I was determined.
I have never let him fall not even once or a bit. I always managed to catch him on time.
The old couple just nodded at my tear streaked face.
I understood what they felt.
Just like they felt a kinship towards me.
After all we had gone through a similar situation.
I continued,'My grandfather had his mood swings as well. But I know that was because he felt neglected. So I always teased him like a small child. I made stupid jokes to him as if he was my younger brother. He laughed his toothless growled as his mouth opened wide.
He didn't laugh that much since he got ill.
I was so encouraged that I made more silly jokes and teased him.
I told him ridiculous stories how he used to tackle my grandmother.
It was a story I made up while my grandmother blushes and my grandfather laughed.
Every smile and grin was my trophies.
It was just like when I was a little girl and used to ride his back, treating him like my own horse.
For 5 years I took care of my grandfather.
I had backpain intermittently as a proof but those young days backpain just recovered quickly not like this age.
Then, one day he was very ill.
I sat at his feet massaging his cold feet.
My grandmother was reciting Syahadah to him.
His chest rised as he tried to grasp the breathe.
And his mouth closed followed by his eyes.
Every thing went limp.
I didn't cry.
I was quiet.
I knew it was his time and I was satisfied that I have done everything that a good grandchild would do.
I have no regret.
I was also unable to process what I felt.
After the funeral, I helped my grandmother tidied my grandparents room and as I touched the mattrese where my grandfather usually lied, my legs gave in and I fell on the cold cement crying as I said to my grandmother' I know it his time but I will miss doing things for him so badly. I will miss him'.
And my grandmother hugged me and said,'Thank you for doing everything that you did for him. You are the only grandchild that I could count on'.
Sometimes, somebody in the family will become ill and the burden of taking care of them will fall to us.
It is difficult.
You have to make sacrifice.
But I always asked myself will I have regret when the person pass away?
I wanted to feel satisfied that I have done everything that I should do.
So, never complained even when you think it was too tough, just keep your head down, carry out your responsiblity and keep going.
Because this whole experience will change you.