I have an app on my phone that keeps track of my family. Each member of the family is a dot that I can locate on a map. I first used this sort of app to help my daughter navigate her way home when she began driving and was often lost. But now I really only use it for one reason: I like to see our different dots piled together when we are all home. I open the app and look at our dots when the kids are quietly doing their homework in separate rooms. I look at our piled dots when we are on the couch watching television. Sometimes I watch the dots moving closer and closer until the garage doors open and the dots pile together. It gives my heart a happy feeling.
About a month ago something happened that has taken me this long to write about. My grandparents moved. My daily trips to drop off groceries, start their laundry, fill their pill boxes stopped. My daily hugs stopped.
They moved to Texas where my grandpa, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, could receive full-time care. My aunt lives in Texas and is keeping me updated on how they are doing. She told me that one day Grandpa kept pointing to the common area in his facility and saying, “It’s empty.” She thought he was confused because he was pointing to where people sat to watch TV and visit. Then he said, “It is empty. There’s just people, no family. It’s empty.”
That story made me cry for about two hours. Then I concocted a complex plan to bust him out that involved helicopters and night vision goggles. I was stopped by my lack of medical expertise, which, as it turns out, is doggone important in caring for him.
He might get confused. He might wander the halls at night. He might eat fifteen times a day. He might randomly lose his temper, but he clearly understands one thing: family is a gift. His family is the first thing he thinks about and the only thing he talks about. That’s why, when I bought my first house, he drove two hours and stayed with me two weeks remodeling my bathroom. That’s why, when he didn’t recognize my grandma, he wouldn’t let her in the bedroom. That’s why, when we were kids, he built a park in his backyard. That’s why he tells me he loves me every time he sees me. It’s the way he has always been. He is keeping track of his dots. He has been doing it since way before there was an app for that.