Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
short-term memory loss
"Wait, are you my girlfriend?" said the 86-year-old man.
I sat in front of my grandfather. To him, I was just a nice girl with a bubbly smile. He looked as if he were trying to find any familiarity in my eyes, only to be lost in a sea of uncertainty. Sitting in front of me was a man who told stories of days one could only imagine in black and white. He looked at me as if I were just some pretty girl and not the granddaughter who loved him unconditionally.
Frustration overcame me as I realized that there was so much in his mind that I would never understand. I mourned the man that stood before me as if he had been dead for ages. I wasn't convinced that this was the same man that once protected me from the monsters under my bed, the man who once slew dragons and did somersaults just to put a smile on my face. He stood before me, uninviting and worn by old age. In 2016, his dementia drove him into a different home. That year, we didn't speak a word to each other.
Following his leave, I went to the library and checked out all the books I could get my hands on about dementia and Alzheimer's. I was searching for books that could help me cope with this unavoidable reality of my grandfather's situation. I came across Alzheimer's Association and read that their main goal was to design environments for people with Alzheimer's Disease. I was hooked.
As an artist and designer, I am able to give my grandfather a voice to be something more than just his Alzheimer's. In the past year, I've done countless projects that have allowed me to better express Alzheimer's for those who don't understand it. With art, my grandfather and I have been able to reconnect while still acknowledging the facts: Alzheimer's is a struggle, but not a hindrance.
My grandfather has encouraged me to extend my understanding of design and engagement in psychology to work with people with disabilities and start conversations that have yet to be initiated. He was always so passionate about helping others and being the voice to those unable to speak up, so I intend to do the same.
Monthly visits have now turned into weekly ones. He always greets me as if it's been ages since our eyes have met, and I hold on to him just a little tighter and enjoy the embrace for as long as he lets me. Though it hurts knowing that he'll never feel the gratification of looking back on his life I know he is looking forward. My grandfather has taught me that this disease stands as a motivator to keep living, to keep experiencing. I look towards my future with open arms and an open heart just as he does. Now sitting before me is no longer a stranger, just an old friend from which I still have a lot to learn.