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Blowing Candles — How Alzheimer’s Consumed Grandma’s Brain

This work of fiction in paragraphical form which I dare to label as poetry is something I wrote several years ago. Alzheimer’s disease continues to consume the memory and lives of millions every year. The immense sadness that results from it caused me a great deal of pondering my life and eventually, these words.

“Okay, we’re going to start, one by one, since there are too many candles for you to blow.”

“But I think I might be able to blow them out all at once!”

“Five candles? Well, you can give it a go, but if it doesn’t work, you have to blow them out one at a time. Does that sound like a deal?” Grandma asked.

“Deal.” The little girl leaned in to try and extinguish all the candles at once, but they didn’t want to be put out. She looked at the older figure next to her and said, “Okay, you were right.”

“Go ahead, take your time. And by the way, happy birthday.” Once more, the girl leaned in to the illuminated of the cake and inhaled deeply, then blew out all of the air in her lungs towards her first target.

Grandma was forgetting little things. It was mainly just an issue of location, forgetting where she placed something: her eyeglasses, her favorite sweater, the remote control for her television. People wouldn’t pay that much attention to it, because it only happened every once in awhile. Little did they know that this was the beginning of the end.

The first candle flickered a bit before dying out. A high-pitched cheer was emitted from the little girl. One candle down.

Grandma was starting to forget bigger things. The family remembered her asking them for their phone numbers, even when back then she was able to memorize them by heart. They would just blame it on her age. It was horribly humorous to think that they found it as natural. The family only really started to think about it a couple of months later, when Grandma forgot Grandpa’s death anniversary.  

This candle was not resistant at all to the whistle of wind coming from the small mouth. Two candles down.

It was evolving. Grandma would forget where things were on a daily basis, and her daily routine was starting to disappear. The elderly woman’s feat reached a new high after she’d forgotten who her son-in-law was. Her offspring knew it, but nobody was brave enough to let the words roll off their lips.

The middle candle shook with each breeze that traveled by it. With a few hearty blows, the candle’s light was gone. Three candles down.

The short, aging woman was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few weeks after. Everything was becoming forgotten, and the once bright and compassionate eyes turned into ones that looked so lost. And ever so slowly, Grandma one by one forgot the names of her own family.

This candle was the hardest of them all to be put out. With each puff of air, the candle still wouldn’t budge. Grandma stepped in. “Do you need some help there?” The granddaughter reluctantly agreed, and with double the strength, the candle’s light died. Four candles down.

Visiting the nursing home became the granddaughter’s top priority every week. She tried her best to make a difference, to do something memorable with each visit, so that she wouldn’t be erased. But, eventually, the time came when Grandma’s response turned from “Oh, that’s right,” to “I don’t think I know you.”

The last candle was highly anticipated. The little girl smiled, and lightly let out a small amount of air, extinguishing the last of the candles.

Grandma died a week later.

***

Donate to the Alzheimer’s Association here.

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Cat is a 5'0 senior in high school with dreams that reside much higher than her height. Her passions include academia, berry smoothies, and LGBTQ+ rights. (IG/TWIT: @catnipscarlet)

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