Another Life Destroyed by Alzheimer’s by Audrey Vazzana

     Grandma Del has a back porch camouflaged with flowers galore. Small and large pots sit in corners and edges eating sun, decorating this so called backyard. The kiss of warmth on my skin when I overlook the neighborhood makes up for the sore, outdated home on which my feet remain planted. For just a moment the reality of why I am here escapes my mind and time flows with the breeze because when Grandma Del reached out her hand for mine a special beam of kindness struck my heart.
     “Chickery chick cha-la cha-la check-a-la romey in a bananika bollika, wolika can’t see chickery chick is me?”
     My twirl around her wheelchair ended the sweet song that she led and embarrassment stung my cheeks while my family, surrounding me, stared in amazement. Although, echoing deep in my mind, a question lingered along with the doubt that it could ever be answered. Is this “chickery chick” really the Grandma Del I know?

     When signals at a traffic light stop working cars cluster and due to the traffic, accidents occur, danger rises to fever pitch, and you are blockaded as your destination waits patiently for your arrival. In like manner, when my dear old friend Plaques comes to life after a specific protein called Beta-Amyloids clump together, he blocks the signaling between neurons. Therefore, he demolishes the communication and nerve cells in the brain because of this hindrance.
     Similarly, Tangles is built from proteins called Tau instead of Beta-Amyloid proteins. Tau protein ensures that the microtubules that allow nutrients into the brain’s nervous system remain straight like that of the cement on a highway. Nonetheless, the Tau proteins collapse into twisted strands or more importantly, Tangles, making the tubes disintegrate and preventing nutrients from reaching the nerve cell, conducting them to death.
     Overall, the mastermind of this whole process is I, Alzheimer’s Disease. Slowly and steadily the team and I will relentlessly break down the brain, plaguing different regions. With a grand total of six stages, the memory and life of another senior will be ruined.

     The water molecules loosely flow around each other in the vast blue ocean, as do the thoughts in my mind as we cruise on the freeway. I can feel every second beat and echo the vibrations of the car while I anxiously wait for the ride to end. I can’t help but think of the palm trees, water, reflections and bright blue skies that also describe the contents of Grandma Del’s bathroom. It was usually the first place I ran to in an effort to avoid the flux of hugs until eventually I would be forced to confront my fears.
When I wash my small hands and stare into the wide mirror, looking back at me is a young girl with a face that defines me and all my sisters. Still, my brown eyes and shoulder-length hair shape me. My face is tan and freckles mask my nose. Crooked teeth occupy my mouth.
     The bathroom spills into the living room where the carpet is a tough, dirty white, and patterns of flowers spiral in every direction, but really only give the room a look of depression. Correspondingly, the constant short-term memory loss and mood swings give Grandma Del the emotion of aggression far too often.

     Synapses, the contact points, where neurons, also known as nerve cells, transmit valuable information through electrical and chemical signals to communicate, ultimately make thinking a process humans perform. However, this process is disrupted when I slowly creep into the minds of our dearest and kill those cells one by one. Your brain, once innocent, becomes invaded by the spine rippling shadows that spread over your mind until you are rendered useless. The curtain is drawn, the malicious malady now becomes authority, and you are face to face with what will be the rest of your life. No one is immune.
     We begin in region one, the hippocampus and lethargically move to the front of the brain where all the links will be deleted for good. The first three steps will commence with short-term memory loss and proceed to simple problems and tasks becoming unsolvable.

     Norma Lee D’Alessandro was diagnosed with Dementia in 2007 until around 2010 when Alzheimer’s was elevated to further hasten her death. About the same time when Phoebe began caring for her, Grandma Del had a difficult time making new memories causing her to be quick to anger and confusion when a new key detail was forgotten. She switches from English to Italian at random and oftentimes fails to remember where she is. Therefore Phoebe aids in all those areas.
     Hunger growls in my stomach and the taste of delicious shrimp, cabbage, and sauce crunching beneath my teeth satisfies my taste buds. I soak up the rich enjoyment of partaking of a shrimp taco. I scarf down my food and sit at a round, wood table with Grandma Del, as Phoebe spoon-feeds her a yogurt with medication. When Grandma Del takes hold of the spoon herself her hand shakes on its journey to her mouth. We encourage her through the whole process until she is finished, and Phoebe instructs her to wipe off her face. They then glide to the bathroom where Phoebe brushes her teeth.

     Now that stage one was successfully completed discipline regulates around my terms. With my hard work and the help of Plaques and Tangles, we made it more difficult for Norma to sustain recent ideas until eventually the hippocampus was devoured and she resorted to her long-term memories. Her family will experience the effects of short-term memory loss, as simple reminiscences from hours to days ago will be forgotten. In addition, more brain cells continue to die, deteriorating her language and simple problem solving. As the first three sections have been declared destroyed, we continue onto Norma’s emotions, mind, and memories.

     My mom gives Grandma Del her annual haircut when we visit and as a result, such works paint a portrait of a woman who sits still in a green, fabric-covered wheelchair, thinning grey hairs strung with neglect, and skin fragile as glass doing no more than necessary. A presence that is deceiving for she can change from contempt to anger with the snap of a finger. Her hands smacking our hands and our soft words crashing against those of hers. Phoebe tries to help, although we will never see Grandma Del again. Occasionally she speaks to her mother, whom she claims has come to visit her though she died years ago. Heads turn and ideas churn from her alarming conversations that no one else can conceive. We watch as Grandma Del sits amongst the cigarette ashes and pine green carpet suffocating the floor in the garage, while her condition persistently erodes, peeling away the layers one by one.
     Time is such an interesting concept as it is purported to heal all wounds; yet, it also takes its tolls on us. In the course of time, one day must come to an end and because of this occurrence, a memory so vivid is ingrained in my mind. Walking with a mission on the slick tile lining the hallway, my hands reach down and grasp the leather handle of my mother’s purse. Swung onto my shoulder I strut back down the hallway until my body freezes in its tracks. Sniffles break the silence that lingers, and I can hear the gentle voice of my grandmother, Nana, asking whether or not Grandma Del remembered her. Nana, coaxing her mother with the ideal information that she was her daughter, Barbara, was an attempt destined for failure. With remorse I stayed put, Grandma Del unable to recognize her precious child. I finished my mission to the car with tears stinging my eyes and the reflection of Alzheimer’s replaying in my mind. Time can heal my wound whereas it has taken its toll on my great grandmother.

     Good/evil, love/logic, wholesome/corrupt–all polar opposites with distinct lines that have been blurred because of us leaving Grandma Del with boundaries unknown. Indulging her family in a question of who she is was an attempt to reclaim her; it may never be answered because the lines between her rhyme and reason are officially erased. She has lost all control of her moods, cognition, and the cherished memories, which she yearns to hold onto. These are the contents that now describe her character. The moment the brain inside was distracted was the moment fatal consequences wreaked havoc. Plaques, Tangles, and I drew first blood; therefore, reality hit her hard and her senses became obscure, ultimately, provoking the surrender of domination.
     My leisurely process moves from mild forgetting to your eternity. With no signs of a cure, I will maintain survival through the nourishment of your recollections. Inflicting my virus in over five million people a year, I will kill about eighty-three thousand this year alone. Norma was one in a million.

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