Making Memories With Poppop

My Poppop's house sits at the corner of Virginia and Finley Avenues. It will always be his house. It is the house in front of which I learned how to ride a bike. It is the front porch where all of the shenanigans happened. And it is the basement where he taught me how to woodwork.

Poppop would leave this house in conjunction with a series of events that included his diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease. And the activities that we would do together would look just a little different in his new home and a different version of my Poppop. Here are some of the activities that stuck and didn't as we waded our way into living with Alzheimer's disease as a family.

Out with the woodworking

As much as I loved sanding and staining and handling power tools with Poppop in his Virginia Avenue basement, we worked on our last project together before he moved. Until recently, it hung in my parent's home, a natural-wood toned (because I picked the stain or lack there of) cabinet.

Now, we would work on puzzles with Poppop. At his new home, he had always had a puzzle going in the basement and my sister and I would help reveal the final product whenever we were there. After they were completed, he would glue them together to be framed. They sit in the homes of my aunts, uncles, and cousins now. This kind of activity was great for the early stages of the disease, my adolescent attention span, and beautification of our homes, so win-win-win.

Sprinkle me in sunshine

Pop's love of the outdoors never waned. At his new home, we would go exploring! The house set on a good deal of land. As a pre-teen it felt like we were going everywhere, but in reality we likely stayed in small adjacent yard, and always stopping at the overgrown logging trail. I remember my Mom being with us on most of these occasions too.

I remember spending tons of time outdoors, even if it was just sitting on the stoop and taking in the gorgeous Appalachian mountain countryside. Pop liked to be kept busy, usually weeding, or raking, or cutting something. Even late into his disease, you put a rake in this mans' hands next to a tilled patch of dirt it would come out smooth as a baby's bottom. The point was no longer a pristine flower bed that none of the neighbors' kids dared to breath on, but was instead the activity in and itself: soaking up sunshine, breathing in mountain air, pulling up weeds to see how many we could get, raking for the meditative advantages of repeating an action over and over.

Asking for help

I have always been a bit of a type-A human being so even in my pre-teen long weekends at my grandparents' house, I would usually bring something to do. It might be a book, which is a perfectly companionable activity to participate in with your loved one, but often in the summer time it was my campaign to fundraise for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. My cousin and Pop's grandson, Taylor, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was just a little roly-poly.

As the action-oriented 12-16-year-old, I found a walk, registered, and then fundraised. My main fundraising action at the time was a letter writing campaign to the stunningly few people in my adolescent rolodex. Gram and Poppop helped every year, often buying me the stamps, envelopes, and paper, I needed in my quest, congratulating me on my often error-riddled, handcrafted letters, and helping me stuff and mail those letters for a cure.

Beautiful memories

It might take some time to find something that works for you. And by the time you have found that (take puzzles, for example) the disease may make it impossible for you to participate in it for very long. But if you keep an open heart and invite your loved one and yourself to try new things, I bet you'll wind up with some beautiful memories in the process.

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