Dazzled Helpless and Alzheimered

I woke up today like I was being paid to act in a commercial for cold medicine except I wasn’t acting. I returned to bed after a failed attempt at starting my day and I got to sleep-in until about 2pm. This never happens but thankfully I could today. I had help.

This evening I felt better enough to tackle decorating our Christmas tree with my little Noah as my helper. I kept him busy with beads of silver and gold that he twirled around and around. We’re not quite done yet with our tree but Noah is dazzled by our progress so far. He’s incredibly restrained about not touching the decorations or fluff.

I’m so impressed.



This time last year Noah was yet too young to understand Christmas but this year he’s seeing Christmas trees popping up all around and he’s connecting the dots as far as his mind does stretch. He calls out “Klaas!” when he sees both Sinterklaas and Santa Claus but I would too if I was not yet two. There are so many things Noah cannot understand yet he still appreciates. What a wonderful gift that stays with you forever if you’re lucky: To not understand yet still appreciate something or someone. We all do this to some extent every day but we could all use some stretching of our own beyond just appreciating what’s right in front of our eyes.

Part of my very long day included Skype time with my mother and my grandmother. My grandmother was discharged from the hospital today, after falling in the bathtub this past weekend and now requiring physical therapy. She’s been struggling in health in heart and lungs for longer than any should have to, yet she fights a fight every day and lives. Sometimes there are too many fights because there’s that damn Alzheimer’s rearing up too.

My grandmother fights with someone every day, be it a doctor or nurse or my mother or my aunt. Her medications for her Alzheimer’s must be helping but far too often they seem to be doing not enough. Helplessness is a side effect of watching a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s.

My mother whispered to me on Skype that anytime a needle or a tube was placed in my grandmother’s body there had to be at least three nurses to restrain or sedate her at the hospital. My grandmother thinks her blood is being drawn to be sold on the black market because she thinks she’s still living in times of the Korean War. She floats in and out of time warps of her life and it’s hard to catch up sometimes. Sometimes my mother and I laugh because it’s all you can do. My poor grandmother sometimes thinks it’s 1952?!

All the understanding in the world about Alzheimer’s can never make you appreciate Alzheimer’s in your life. It can only make you appreciate everything else that much more, with compassion, about someone your care about but can no longer understand. So on Skype I showed my grandmother our Christmas tree. She and my mother both looked awed just like little Noah looked and in that moment I knew my grandmother was very present and very aware of where she was and who she was. She was my grandmother and she was praising me from thousands of miles away for decorating such a grand tree. I felt like I was a little girl again.

After the tree-showing I could tell my mother was in better spirits. I didn’t even tell her how sick I actually was. Imagine that.

We just said goodbye as usual with I love you kisses before hanging up.

Always dishing,



  1. Sheri

    Oh Jun. I LOVE today’s blog so much as it made me stop and think about how lucky I am to have my 100 year old Farmor (Father’s Mother in Swedish) call me every morning. Fifteen years ago we told her we need her to call me to remind me to take my medicine at 11:00 am. There actually is no medicine to take, but it is my family’s ingenious way of us knowing she’s OK each day without pissing her off for checking up on her.

    After all these years of calls I can tell by her hello exactly how she is doing. A missing morning call several years ago triggered my Aunt into action. She found Farmor had slipped on the rug and fallen. My grandmother is a very proud (and stubborn) woman who probably would have starved to death before she called someone for help. Our little system worked great and she has never asked me how my Aunt knew to stop by that morning. I think she knows but neither of us would ever bring it up. When my own stubborn streak flares up every now and then my family tells me how much I’m just like my grandmother to which I always reply “Thank You”. What a fine compliment to receive.

  2. It seems, in spite of the way your day started, that it turned around. Noah is enchanted by the lovely tree, and your G-ma connected with you! What a treat to experience.

    My poor Mom is WAY past connecting with anybody, although I keep her as active as I can. She’s also beginning to get that vacant look in her eyes.Did I say she’s a handful? Yikes! She just said “Hey, April Avenue. Did you get them all done?” lol I just laughed – and so did she. (I have no idea what she’s talking about.) She just called one of her imaginary friends, “the old asshole” (in a whisper so he couldn’t hear her). She’s always helping people who aren’t there, etc. Wow, she wears me out, as she goes and goes for hours, sometimes without stopping. Think of someone bipolar with Alzheimer’s disease, and you’ve got an idea… She’s been on an upswing for about three days now, and I’m trying to take care of her.

  3. Angela P

    Oh Jun, tears filled in my eyes! What a beautiful heart felt blog. It reached deep inside. Thank you for sharing your Noah, your mother, & grandmother with us. Thank you for sharing YOU,with us. Prayers for Grandmother & for your wellness too! Take Care!!

  4. Shannon

    It warmed my heart that you had a good skype with your mom & grandma. I know how much I appreciate the “good days” with my dad who has Alzheimer’s. I hope you are feeling better soon.


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