Every time we go visit Mr. MPB’s family, we always stop to see my Great Aunt and Uncle. Without a doubt, we always make time to visit these two people, so in amongst the crazy that was our no sleep early Christmas vacation, this visit had to happen.
You see, my Great Aunt and Uncle have been surrogate grandparents to me. After my mom and sister died, without hesitation, they stepped up to the plate and really helped my Dad (and therefore me). As we lived in an area with no family, after my mom and sister died, my Dad often shipped me off to visit family members in various placed across North America. I suspect this had to do with his desire to spend time without me with my now step-family. But all our family members took me in and offered me some fun, comfort and distraction when I visited. While I spent time with a lot of different extended family members, I particularly loved my time with my Great Aunt and Great Uncle. I spent long weekends with them and I spent weeks in the summer months at their house. When my Dad and I were really fighting, he’s sometimes pull me out of school for a long weekend and send me to visit them. They took me under their wing and simultaneously carved out a special spot in my life. And so, they have always, and will always hold a very special spot in my heart.
But, sadly, my Great Aunt, who is also my name sake, is now in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. Most recently we visited when Little MPB was just a few months old, and she didn’t really know who we were but she absolutely adored Little MPB. I knew that the Alzheimer’s was advancing and everyone kept telling me that she had gone downhill and it would be different as she is now in a fully medical staffed, lock-down unit for her own safety. Heck, even when I called my Great Uncle to arrange the visit time, he tried to warn me of just how bad it was. But, I didn’t care (and didn’t really listen). Of course we were going to visit her!
And so we did. And it was nothing short of horrible. I had never encountered a medical unit like this one, nor had I truly seen people requiring this level of car and nor had I ever pictured my Aunt in this state. The lock down unit is truly a lock down unit – you cannot get in or out without assistance from the staff. My Aunt is no longer able to walk. My Aunt is disoriented. She was unable to make eye contact – we held Little MPB directly in her eye line, and she mostly opened her eyes and even cracked a tiny smile – her only sign of ‘life’ the entire time we were there. She’s in there, but yet she’s not. My Aunt is no longer herself. Simply, she is gone. As we left, once I was in the safety of the fresh outdoors, I had tears rolling down cheeks.
We made time to fit in another visit before we had to fly home. This time, we just went to see my Great Uncle at his house, a house that contains so many happy memories for me. My Uncle has been my Aunt’s primary caregiver for the last few years. He fought hard to keep her at home and care for her, but he had to admit defeat. Now, he is home, alone in the house that they built with love, raised their children in, hosted grandkids (and surrogate grandkids like me) and great-grandkids in. The house looked the exact same, but was completely different without my Aunt there. They’ve been married for over 60 years, most of which were spent in that house. As is evident from the picture on the wall they’ve lived a life that people, myself included, dream to have. I’m sure it wasn’t perfect, but my memories of that house are perfect. And now, he is lonely and oh so sad to see the love of his life in this state.
My heart is shattered for both of them.
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