Vida Stories – Vrinda

12th September 2016

Vida Stories - Vrinda

My grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s two years before he passed away. The final years of his life were a constant struggle—not just for him, but also for us who took care of him. Slowly, but steadily, we could feel his memory slipping away like sand, until it finally gave way almost entirely. It hurt us every day to see him in pain—medicated, unaware, and unconscious.

He would refuse to eat, be angry at all of us, and show signs of aggression that he never had before. All of this, coming from a benign gentlemanly professor, was a huge shock to everyone in the family. Perhaps you can read all you want about the symptoms of dementia, but nothing can ever prepare you for when it happens to your own family.

I was the only lucky member of the household my grandfather recognised, until the end of his days. I was his favourite grand-daughter, the only one he listened to, the only one he allowed to feed him. For months on end, he would refuse to have dinner unless I was feeding him with my own hands. We would have long conversations that just went round and round in circles, never going anywhere. I would hold his hand and ever so slowly walk him to the dinner table every night until he couldn’t walk anymore. There would be times he would call out to me in the middle of the night, and ask me to not leave him alone. I would hold his hand and curl by his side until he fell asleep again. 

I tended to my grandfather like he had tended to me as a baby.

My journey with my grandfather taught me many things. All the while, as he lost his memory, I knew he was still the same person. He was lost, he was confused, but he was still the same man. His face would still light up when my father entered the room. He would still worriedly inquire if I was okay going out in the harsh Delhi heat. When I played his favourite old Bollywood songs, he would giggle as I danced for him. On my lucky days, he would join me in the dance too. He would refuse his meals, but still pile mangoes on to his plate. He would hug me back with whatever little strength he had left, just the way he used to. He was the same, simple, lovely man, caught in a bad place. And knowing this, made my life easier.

It isn’t easy to not blame yourself for the suffering of your loved ones. It is never easy to see a loved one in pain. But knowing that I could make his last days easier for him, make him smile a little more, made it a little easier for me to cope with the trauma. It made it easier to understand that his death wasn’t a loss, but a release from all the suffering he had gone through in his last few years. It made me understand that he is probably in a better place now.