There are several diseases that just aren’t funny. I cannot and will not ever joke about any type of cancer. Multiple sclerosis is a heart-wrenching thing to watch someone endure. Anyone that finds humor in AIDS might as well have it themselves because they clearly have no soul worth sharing with others anyway.
But Alzheimer’s? Alzheimer’s is hysterical.
My grandpa was officially diagnosed in 2008, and every subsequent family get-together was inherently entertaining. He was never a patient man to begin with, but as he got irritated over the misplacement of a newspaper or forgetting which channel ESPN was, cursing the entire situation with a “Goddamnit! Christ almighty!” vented his frustration and offered plenty of comedic fodder for my brothers and I to work with.
Growing up, Grandpa would generously send the three of us checks either at the beginning of the school year or the end of the school year or sometime around Yom Kippur even though much to my dismay, we’re in no way, shape, or form Jewish. My oldest brother would rake in a whopping $75, which would lead the naïve eye to believe that my other brother and I would be receiving the same fortune. Erroneous on all [bank] accounts. Middle Bro would collect a cool $50, and yours truly would be left with $25. Thanks Grandpa, how equally-divisible of you. The checks stopped a-coming around the time the thoughts stopped a-flowing, which is pretty unfortunate because as far as I’m concerned, I should’ve made my way up to at least $40 by now. But when a man has trouble dressing himself and obliviously wanders the streets at midnight with just his walker and a dream, it’s understandable when the silly nuances fall by the wayside.
As things progressed (or regressed, depending on how you look at it), the amusement factor skyrocketed. Grandpa had to move out of his house and in with my aunt, which was like a sitcom waiting to happen. Grandpa thought this meant he had upgraded to the penthouse at the Ritz, and like any true diva, immediately made everyone around him his bitch. While he could usually identify my dad after some gentle coaxing, my brothers were always some kind of room service attendant, my aunt and uncle were the concierge and maid, respectively, and my mom and I got to switch off acting as his “girlfriend” (sorry, Grandma). Talk about awkwardly-hilarious. Now I know how Anna Nicole Smith felt. We tried to remind him that we were family, but I’m pretty sure when you get to a certain age, you’ll call anyone anything they want as long as they’ll get you a glass of orange juice and find out what time the UConn game is on.
Grandpa was always good for a quick ego boost. A short note would usually accompany every check we received, telling us how ridiculously awesome we were. Of course, Grandpa would put his own twist on this seemingly standard practice of showing grandparental love. Instead of waiting for us to tell him about our achievements, he would pull a Ms. Cleo and adore us like some kind of geriatric fortune cookie.
Skylar, You’ve done a wonderful job in school this year, getting all A’s and just two B+’s! You played soccer in the fall and practiced very hard in order to make the all-star team. You are a beautiful dancer, taking ballet, tap, and jazz classes; you danced wonderfully in your end-of-year recital! You will grow to be an even more generous, kind, and loving person, and this next year will treat you even better than the last. Keep smiling and enjoy your summer.
Love, Grandpa and Grandma
Compare that to the blank stare and muttering of Polish we were met with as of late and it goes without saying that things were getting a little dicey up in this hotel.
The day before I left for Austria, I got to see my grandpa. He hadn’t eaten in over a week and could barely open his eyes, much less write me a check or give me a compliment. Taking a cue from John Q, I told him, “See ya later” and with a peck on the cheek, went off on my adventure.
Since I couldn’t receive calls overseas, my mom informed me of his death via e-mail about a week and a half later. In a darkly humorous twist of fate, his funeral was scheduled for my birthday (pretty elaborate joke, if you ask me).
I obviously didn’t get to go.
I didn’t get to say a proper good-bye, I didn’t get to thank him for the many accolades, and I’ll never get to pay him back for all of the memories I had acquired over the years.
It’s funny how things work out.