Monday, March 14, 2011

Worse things

Grampie and Thyrza came over for dinner last night.  Beve had asked Grampie over to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show, but then realized the show is essentially talking heads, no basketball included.  It would confuse Grampie, if not put him to sleep.  So the full day of basketball with Beve/E will be next weekend when--wait for it--they're actually playing basketball.  However, Grampie's brain only got half the message, so at 5 PM. called me to ask, "When do you want us?"--as if they were going to show up at our door without our assistance.  It's interesting how the brain continues to use familiar expressions long after the validity of the meaning passes.  The other thing they ask is, "What can we bring?" which is what people always ask, but in their case would involve one of us taking them to the store after picking them up so that they could bring something to our house.  Needless to say, we always tell them we don't need them to bring anything up each other (which is hard enough).

The point is, Grampie's "When do you want us?" is actually code for "When are you coming to get us?" and we're nothing if not accommodating (well, not always, but it was easy enough yesterday to fit them into our dinner plans), so Beve hustled out the door.  And we had a nice dinner with them then settled down to watch some CNN, because Grampie told us Thyrza always watches the news after dinner. 

As you know, the only thing on the news was Japan, which is both gripping and heartbreaking.  Every day a little more of both.  To think that this very progressive nation, with a few moments on a rocking horse beneath what they thought was solid earth, has been swept back a hundred years.  Without power, without roads to move them expediently up their island home, and, in the northeast, all the way back before civilization itself.  We continue to be mesmerized by the images, and horrified by the stories.

Well, I should say four of us were mesmerized and talking about it incessantly as we watched.  Grampie was in his own world.  As soon as we turned on the TV after dinner, he asked E about the basketball Tournament, wanted to know about the WSU Cougars, and got his peculiar "I'm bewildered" expression on his face when she told him they weren't in the tournament.  She printed him out a bracket, and tried to explain it, but his questions didn't stop. "But how do more Pac-10 teams get in the tournament?"

Now let me review for those of you who are new.  Grampie was a college basketball star at the University of Oregon.  His name is on the wall of honor at the new Matthew Knight Colliseum there.  He became a PE and Recreation major after his stint in the army in WWII where, among other things during his free time, he put together a basketball tournament in Burma.  In Bend, Eugene and Pullman, he was so instrumental in developing Little League baseball, there's a baseball field with his name on it in Pullman.  And, while at WSU, he evaluated officiating (the refs) at the Pac-10 level.  What I'm saying by reciting this portion of his resume is that he absolutely understood how tournaments worked in his prime.  Absolutely.

As I thought about his confusion afterwards, I fell apart.  I remember three years ago when my mother couldn't change her TV channel, so was deeply immersed in the Presidential campaign on CNN.  I thought it was testament to how well she was still doing until the day she told me that those people didn't stop talking to her even when she went into the bedroom.  She thought the people on CNN were right in her room, and for pete's sake, she told them she'd be right back. No explanation on my part made any difference and I was shocked by this breakdown in her cognitive ability.

We aren't quite there with Grampie, but we're getting close.  When something that was basic to his career is gone, we're definitely on the rapid decline.  AND I HATE IT.  When I told Beve this, he said, "But I love how sweet he is now.  How dear."  And he is.  He absolutely is, and it's also sweet to see Beve with his father.  But I still hate this disease with what I used to call in middle school a "purple passion!"  (That was the strongest phrase I could think of in those days)  Beve didn't see Mom in the last year of her life. For all sorts of reasons, he just never got over there, so he doesn't know.  He just doesn't know how bad it can get.

There are worse things than dying.  I believe that.  And for a person who knows and loves the Lord, there may well (there IS) nothing better.  Really.  The end stage of Alzheimers is worse than death.  I know this. If you think me harsh, I say it's because you haven't seen a person empty of everything that makes them human.  Literally a shell.  I have seen it with my own eyes.  I do not wish it on anyone, especially a man so sweet, a man so beloved.  This man.  May he die before he get there.  Please God.

No comments: