I believe in the power of love.
My 76-year-old grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago, and he is now entering the final stages.
He doesn’t even remember my name.
But what he does remember, though, is Jacky. He never forgets Jacky.
Jacky, my grandmother, the love of his life, always replaces the confused look on his face with a twinkle in his eyes simply by walking into the room. Fifty-two years of marriage and they’re still madly in love.
Jacky doesn’t care about the mint chocolate chip ice cream stains on his pink polo or even the many “dancing girls” he meets at his weekly House of Friends visits. Jacky doesn’t care. Jacky doesn’t care that her husband keeps her up every night, tossing and turning, dreaming about fragments of the past or even when he taps her on the back and whispers, flushing slightly, “Bathroom?” Jacky doesn’t care.
Jacky is in love. She is in love with the man she first laid eyes on over 50 years ago, the frat boy she’d caught stealing her black lace underwear on a panty raid. Jacky is in love. She is in love with the man who fumbles for his own children’s names, the man who can’t remember what year it is, the man who tells the same stories twice a day. Jacky is in love.
The details in his head may be perpetually blurry. He will never remember all the times we piled in the monstrous silver minivan littered with Go Fish and Uno cards for road-trips spent jamming to the Wicked soundtrack, belting out every word to “The Wizard and I”; the winter nights before I’d even started first grade when my sister and I would perform failed attempts to cartwheel on the prickly living room rug, always ending with a standing ovation; and even the little “Roses are Red” poems rewritten for every unique occasion. No — he will never remember.
But when Jacky walks into the room, he remembers something. He remembers love.
The sparkle in his dark eyes, the flash of crooked teeth, and the trademark grandpa laughter only present when Jacky is nearby are proof he remembers love, if nothing else.
He doesn’t remember my name.
But he will never forget love.