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Alzheimer’s and the Here and Now

Alzheimer’s and the Here and Now

My grandfather taught me to live in the spectacular now.


My grandfather always smiled when I visited him. He would emit a surprised, "Hello Rebecca! I haven't seen you in a while!" and reciprocate my hug.

I sighed and gently reminded him who I was. "No, Grandpa Eli, it's me. It’s Rochel."

I sat down. Our eyes met. He laughed.

"Where are you in life now?" he asked.

A response was given and he invariably replied, "That’s lovely."

My grandfatherMy grandfather

The conversation continued. His tone rose and fell. My attention was again drawn to the mosaic of veins and bruises on his skin as I heard him ask, "So, where are you in life now?"

I repeated what I had said and offered to take him for a drive. An offer he gladly accepted.

As we got in the car his head tilted in curiosity and he said, "Rebecca, it has been so long! Where are you in life now?"

The day was cloudy. He only saw sunshine.

He was delighted with my reply and gazed at the passing scenery.

"The day is perfect, isn't it? The weather is beautiful. Look at the sky!"

"Yes, Grandpa, it is. It’s perfect."

The day was cloudy. He only saw sunshine.

A few moments passed.

He placed his hand gently on mine and his eyes lit up as a question occurred to him. "So, my darling, tell me – where are you in life now?"

The Spectacular Now

For my grandfather, every moment was created anew. It was tied neither to the last minute nor the moment following. His Alzheimer’s disease caused him to live in an everlasting present, surrounded by the potential to begin afresh, and he was delighted there.

We are taught that God brings the world into being at every moment. Our lives, though they may seem to run independently of external forces, are nothing but a constant pulsating flow of Godly energy. In a similar manner, a ball thrown into the air appears to rise of its own accord. Physics, however, dictates that the ball continues to rise only as long as the force from one’s hand continues driving it upward. As soon as that force is exhausted, the ball falls to the ground. So too, an ebb and flow of Divine light creates and recreates the world numerous times per second.

Normal people don’t feel their own recreation on a consistent basis. At least, I don’t. But perhaps my grandfather did. He belonged to a world in which a person is never stuck in the mire of his situation. One need not wait for tomorrow to have a better day; from one second to the next, one can take a deep breath and begin again.

My grandfather belonged to a world where it was normal to comment on the beautiful weather nine times during a 30 minute car ride, because each time it was true.

He belonged to a world where it made sense to repeatedly ask me, “Where are you in life now?” as if I didn’t answer the same question two minutes prior, because I was a different person back then. I had been recreated. So much had changed.

Life is challenging sometimes. I accept that. But my grandfather taught me to be here. To be present. To live in the spectacular now.

He taught me to just close my eyes, smile, and ask myself, "So, where are you in life right now?”

November 30, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 14

(14) Mary, December 7, 2013 8:11 PM

beauty of the moment

This is a beautiful article about a life well spent and a granddaughter of endless patience and wisdom. Some people would merely become annoyed answering the same questions repeatedly, she looked through the eyes of one who say only the good in any situation.

(13) Regina, December 6, 2013 1:08 AM

You make the confusion HOLY

Your article is beautiful. The theme of "recreation" gives momentary relief to the heartbreak that dementia brings.
My late father developed dementia at the end of his life - I've started to wonder if Hashem created such illness in order for THE REST OF US to learn to be COMPASSIONATE.

I hope you find yourself in a wonderful place in life right now.

(12) Bryna, December 5, 2013 9:17 PM

Too rosy a picture for the horror that is this disease.

My dearest friend has Alzheimer's and the conversation can be like you describe. But the horror of the reality makes your rosy picture almost cruel. Yes, u turn th difficult into a moral lesson. In some ways it is a mockery of the destruction of a human being.

(11) lynn finson, December 5, 2013 8:21 PM

a brilliant insight

The point that you make contrasting G-ds constant recreating at every moment, and the Alzheimer patient living in the present where everything is recreated every moment is striking. We are supposed to learn about G-ds ways all the time and learning this message from an Alzheimer patient is awesome. Thank you for your well written and well thought out piece.

(10) Ruth Fogelman, December 5, 2013 7:44 PM

Your grandfather was a very special person

Rochel, I see in your sensitive article that your grandfather was a very positive, loving and giving person before he became ill. And he always had an interest in what you, his beloved granddaughter was doing.
In his illness, he was still that caring, giving person. You are very blessed to have had such a relationship.

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