When I was about fourteen, my grandfather started acting oddly. He would call my mother to report a strange woman in the house, wondering where his wife had gone. She wasn’t gone, of course; he just didn’t recognize her.
So my mother would invite her father to our house, then tell him that the strange woman had left and his wife was waiting for him. I remember watching my grandfather climbing the porch steps to embrace Belle, weeping for joy at her return. But a few days later, it would start all over again.
My grandfather was frightened and confused. So was I. He was the man who had introduced me to art and literature. We sat together while he read poetry, looked at famous paintings, and colored in my coloring books. What was happening to him?
Nobody talked about Alzheimer’s Disease back then. The family said my grandfather had “hardening of the arteries” and that the doctors couldn’t help him.
When he started nailing the doors shut, convinced someone was trying to steal his money, my grandmother took him to the hospital. He died there a few months later at age 78.
It seemed so unfair to me, this double loss: First his mind, then his life.