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Before I Forget...

What I should've asked my grandmother before Alzheimer's interrupted.

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"Your hair looks very nice today."

"Thank you, Grandma. How was your day? Grandpa said you two went to church this morning. How was the sermon?"

"…Oh, I can't remember, but it was nice. I like your hair. Have I told you that already?"

"Yes, Grandma, you did."


"It's okay."

My grandparents raised me after my mother was killed in a car accident. I was 7-months-old when she died; my grandmother was 58, and my grandfather was 56. When my grandmother carried me out of the hospital, an infant with a full leg cast from the accident and three stitches on my right cheek, all notions of grandchild spoiling and weekend visits were instantly replaced with a resurgence of her maternal instinct.

The courts awarded my grandparents custody, deeming my father unfit because of domestic-abuse issues that led to my parents' separation shortly before I was born. My grandfather came out of retirement shortly thereafter. So much for enjoying old age.

Raising me wasn't always easy—partly because I didn't make it that way—and the generation gap was often tough to bridge. They became parents over again, 28 years later, to their only daughter's only daughter. They attended every concert, every meet, every back-to-school night, put me through college and helped me furnish my first apartment.

But as soon as I left the nest and it looked like life would get just a bit easier for them, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.