Grandpa’s Memory: Visiting Holland

Grandpa & Katie
Dini, Grandpa & Aaron

Day three of our trip was yet another adventure into the World of Alzheimer’s.
“Grandpa, didn’t you wear that shirt yesterday?”
“No, this is a clean shirt.”
Of course it wasn’t a clean shirt. Not only did we recognise the red plaid from two days before, a quick sniff told us that it was not the freshest shirt he had with him. We decided that telling a proud and forgetful Dutchman that he’s wrong is not the best idee. Instead we chose another route to try to get him to put on a different shirt.
“You know Grandpa, I think this brown shirt is much more handsome. Oh wow, what a  good-looking guy!”
It worked, so that’s how it went for the remainder of the trip.

Dini, Grandpa & Leini

At one point we spent a few nights with some relatives of Grandmas; Oom Johan and Tante Ghea. After spending time with them, exploring the area where my Dad was born and going for long walks, we headed back to Tante Dini’s house. Half of the day was spent like this…

“Where are we going today?”
“We’re going back to Dini’s, Grandpa.”

“Where are we going?”
We’re going to Dini’s.”

“Where are we going?”
“To Dini’s house.”

“Where are we going today?”
“We’re going to see Dini.”

“Where are we going?”
“We’re going to Dini’s.”

Ghea, Grandpa & Johan

This back-and-forth happened at least thirty times before we were even in the car – sometimes Katie answered him, sometimes I answered him. It’s hard not to get frustrated when you keep having to repeat yourself, but we kept reminding each other that he doesn’t know he already asked.
After all that, we arrived back at Dini’s house and Grandpa turns to me with a huge smile on his face, “You didn’t tell me we were coming here!” and hugged Dini like he hadn’t just seen her two days before. All I could do was roll my eyes and laugh.

Even though we had quite a bit of responsibility on our hands, the trip was a happy time. The ten-days were fun; eating home cooked Dutch meals, drinking tea with family, visiting the seal sanctuary, meeting a new relative almost everyday, looking at the beautiful thatched-roofed houses, taking in the Dutch countryside, visiting the windmill my great-grandfather use to own… most importantly, spending uninterrupted time with Grandpa while he could still appreciate it.

Het Polderhuis: Anno 1925

Naturally over the four years after our trip to Holland, Grandpa’s mind and memory became worse. I remember visiting him and thinking, “If he doesn’t know who I am, I can at least smile so he knows I’m a good and safe person to be around.”

October 10th 2008 is the day I received a phone call from Dad to tell me that Grandpa had passed away. Three years later and I think it’s about to time to start documenting my own memories… you know… just in case.

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