Alzheimer’s stole my grandfather.
It started like any thief starts…
with something simple,
like his short term memory when he
couldn’t remember if he had left the sprinklers on
and the water began to flood down the street.
Then, the disease became bolder, more audacious,
amused by its own impervious power.
It began robbing days, weeks, months,
even the years he spent in Spain with my grandmother.
It stole things I never even knew we’d notice.
Before my grandfather could even ask
what was going to happen to his mind,
he forgot how to
dance to salsa music;
sing like Frank Sinatra;
drive me to school;
turn on the stove;
change the TV channel;
read the Father’s Day cards I made him;
answer the telephone;
put a tie on.
I watched as my family had to reintroduce themselves
every time they walked into the living room.
Then, the day came where I had to tell him who I was, too.
He used to call me his princess, his pet, his puppy.
Alzheimer’s stole 80 pounds from my grandfather
when he forgot how to eat.
My once big and strong hero
now stood at 5’4 and weighed 88 pounds.
I recalled how he would swing me from his muscles
when I was just a little girl.
It didn’t stop there.
Alzheimer’s stole the light in his eyes, the very same
that had been my lighthouse, my torch.
What was left in his gaunt body
was a hollow resemblance of my Tata.
This once-stubborn, hard-fisted and intimidating man
had become a helpless child, clutching
at my grandmother’s apron, crying in breathless confusion.
The last conversation I had with him
was by his deathbed. It was a Sunday evening.
I held his hand in mine and told him that I loved him.
I told him I forgave him for the parts of my
childhood for which he could no longer apologize for
because he had forgotten how to speak altogether.
And while I confessed my own regrets,
and reminded him one last time of how much I
loved him as my father, as my grandfather, and
as my protector,
Alzheimer’s stole his life.
Hasta la vista, te amo mucho, siempre, siempre.