My feet dangled freely from the wooden dining room chair as I dunked my chocolate chip cookies into a mug of milk. As I ate, I watched my favourite television show, Full House, on the bulky brown television set in the corner of my grandparent’s kitchen.
I liked this episode a lot so far. I had never seen it before. The oldest daughter DJ went to a building where grandparents lived. I really liked to see her with them because I spent my whole day with my grandparents. I wondered where the grandchildren in the show were, but I couldn’t figure it out. I was very happy when DJ befriended a nice old man.
I slurped my milk loudly as DJ brought her grandfather friend home. This was a really nice episode. I couldn’t wait for DJ’s younger sisters to meet the man too! But then suddenly the music changed, and I got a bad feeling in my tummy that something bad was going to happen. And then it did. Along with the music, the old man suddenly changed. He was confused and far away. He couldn’t remember where he was. He called DJ by the wrong name! I felt sick.
“ABUELA!” I bellowed for my grandmother as the show cut to a commercial break. She was by my side in an instant. Panic seeped through my voice as I explained the scene. I knew she would be able to explain it to me. She was the smartest person I knew. She knew everything. She knew how to cook delicious food, she knew where to find all of my toys, and she knew all about the mysterious world that existed beyond our suburban walls. She was my grandmother, my first teacher and my favourite person on earth.
Now she nodded solemnly and sat down at the table beside me. I dunked another cookie, realizing that this scene did not have a simple explanation. It wasn’t just make believe like the wrestling shows my brother watched. This was real. She revealed in her most serious voice, “that man has a disease that some people get. They forget things.”
“The other day I forgot my favourite nail polish at home,” I interrupted, worried. “Remember?”
“Everyone forgets things sometimes,” my grandmother explained. “But people with this condition they forget really big things. They forget where they live. Who their children are. Who they are.”
A chill ran down my spine, freezing the hand holding my cookie in mid air. “What if I get this disease?!”
“You can’t.” My grandma reassured me, “only old people get it.”
Old people like my grandparents?! They were the oldest people I knew. My soggy cookie broke free from my fingertips and plunged back into my cup. Milk splashed all over me and the table. My eyes filled with tears and my lower lip began to tremble. As always, my grandma knew just what to do. She sprang from her chair and returned with a paper towel.
I sat there listlessly and watched as the characters on Full House explained to DJ what my grandmother had just explained to me. DJ took the news much better than I was. I found it incredibly hard to accept. It scared me. I knew people got older. I knew their hair turned white and that their skin wrinkled. And my grandmother was always saying that people’s bodies even shrank as they got older. I always found that hilarious. But there was absolutely nothing funny about forgetting who you are.
That was the day I started worrying about my grandparents health.