Column: Fighting forgetfulness

‘There’s nothing much you can do except sit there and hope they remember you.’

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Mario Velazquez

“Even when there was a 1,149 mile gap between us, you still managed to make it feel like you were right by my side.”

I walk into my grandma’s room, at the same time as always. 4 p.m. I don’t remember when it started, but drinking coffee with my grandma has become a part of our daily routine we both cherish wholeheartedly. With two mugs in my hands, I give my grandma hers and head over to my favorite recliner. It sits in its designated area in the corner of the room, right next to the window facing the sidewalk. As I’m about to sit down, it dawns on me; I forgot my phone in the kitchen.

I groan under my breath as I’m faced with a prime example of a first-world problem. Nevertheless, I walk to the kitchen to retrieve my phone, but not before letting out another exaggerated sigh to show my discontent.

I think everyone can agree forgetting can be awful. Sometimes you can move on with your day like nothing happened, the small inconvenience leaving your mind shortly after. But other times it throws everything off balance. 

However, not all forgetfulness is equal. To my grandma, forgetting had an entirely different meaning. Hers was accompanied by mood swings, disorientation and difficulty communicating.  Alzheimer’s disease goes far beyond the four walls of forgetfulness. It’s a complex, never-ending condition that affects not only the person who has it but the people around them too.

If I were reading this five years ago, I would have ignorantly rolled my eyes and moved on. That couldn’t happen to my grandma, right? And anyway, how could someone forget such important information? It simply did not make sense to me. At the time, I didn’t put much thought into it because Alzheimer’s had nothing to do with me. 

That all changed the day my grandma was diagnosed. It was like a slap in the face, a snap back into the cruel realities of the world. What did this mean? Was she going to be OK? Was she going to forget my family? 

The questions jumped around in my brain with no clear answer in sight. I only knew one thing for certain: forgetting was about to get a new meaning to me as well. 



Abuelita, for so long you were my caregiver, my mentor and my rock. You were there to hold me up when I wanted nothing else than to collapse on the ground. Even when there was a 1,149 mile gap between us, you still managed to make it feel like you were right by my side. There’s no explaining how even a simple look from you could make me feel at home in a matter of seconds. Now it’s my turn to return the favor.

Whenever I look at you, I still see the shimmer in your eyes and the little creases that form next to them when you laugh at my silly jokes, even when you don’t think they’re funny. Your eyes have always been so comforting, feeling like a warm hug after a long and tiring day. That has never changed. There’s a sea of memories, both good and bad, trapped behind your eyes and they tell a story without even uttering a word.

But I also notice the frustration in your face when you forget something. The way you close your eyes and put your head down, trying to regain concentration and doing your best to remember what you were saying. I see your happy expression disappear and turn into one of disappointment when your train of thought goes down a different path and suddenly you’re lost, unsure of where you once were. Sometimes the train manages to get back on track, but as the days go by the train just gets more lost in a fog of confusion.

But worst of all is seeing your face when you’re defeated. No matter how much you attempt to remember, it seems impossible to do. This isn’t like some broken bone that can be fixed with a cast and some rest. No, sadly dementia never comes to a halt. It just progressively becomes worse as time goes on. Some days are better than others, but this has turned into a guessing game. Every day is different and it’s best to expect the unexpected. 

Maybe that’s what I fear the most; the unexpected. 

I know you’re still here, but sometimes it feels like I’m losing you. I feel myself losing my tight grasp on you, but there’s nothing I can do about it. It feels like those nightmares where something is chasing you and you try to run. Your feet push harshly against the ground and you feel the burn in your legs, but somehow you’re completely stationary. Your efforts to run away fail and you have no option other than to stand there and wait for something to happen.



But I don’t want to think about the future anymore. I need to focus on reality, not the thousands of ‘what if’ scenarios. If sitting in her room and watching cars go by as we sip coffee is something she enjoys, then I will sit next to her every day and watch cars go by. The small moments are the most memorable. I can’t afford to waste any valuable time. It hurts to think about, but life is not timeless. 

The time will come where they forget the important things, including their loved ones, favorite memories and basic tasks, but there’s nothing much you can do except sit there and hope they remember. 

It’s currently 4 p.m again and as I sit down once more in my grandma’s recliner, I whisper to myself the words I’ve been repeating for the last few months, “Please don’t forget me.”