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My mother made numerous attempts, daily, to get my grandfather to communicate with us, to make some sort of interaction. But there was no use, he had been like this for years and not once did we see any improvements. My mother knew that his brain and body could not function the same way it used to but she never gave up hope and never gave up trying. “Dad? Can you wave at me? Can you say your name for me?” she would ask.
It made her upset when all she got in return was a blank stare, which was most, if not all, of the time. “Bear with me,” she said, “We’ll get through this together,” but she never really went through what he went through. She asked him if he recognized any of us, but there was no response. She asked him to try and say my name, Breann, but there was no response, or so we thought.
He didn’t have to speak to tell us he still knew who we were, his eyes said it all. The moment he heard my name, he turned his head and looked me straight in the eyes. Isn’t it fascinating, the way the brain works? The way it controls an entire person? The way it can grow and learn, the way it can completely shut down and stop functioning? The brain is such a powerful and complex organ with the ability to make or break someone. My grandfather was one that was broken.
He suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and experienced what it is like when your brain forgets how to operate. Those who think this disease is simply memory loss have never had to go through it, first hand, with a relative or close friend. This disease doesn’t just cause memory changes, it causes erratic behaviors and destroys brain cells. My grandfather slowly started to lose his sense of self and his behavior changed; it was like he became a completely different person.
During this time, I was just a young girl and didn’t understand what was going on, I didn’t understand how I was seeing this man I love to become a man who couldn’t even speak to his own granddaughter. I was confused. I never understood that it was his brain doing this to him, breaking him down and making his life a living hell. But how? How could his brain just cause him to behave like this? I wanted to find out how this happened, how this was possible, I wanted to know more about the brain and behavior, and how they affect one another. It is truly mind-blowing how powerful the brain and body are. There is so much to learn about what our minds are capable of. We can challenge reality, overcome limitations, control the condition of our bodies using only our minds.
Just imagine, to what extent can our brains reach? Is there even a limit? The possibilities are literally endless. My grandfather is one of the bravest people I have ever known, not only for risking his life by serving in the army but for being able to keep pushing on as long as he did despite being diagnosed with such a devastating disease. I would’ve loved for him to see how much he has inspired me and how he is my motivation to study psychology. My desire to help people is deeply rooted in what he taught me about courage and my undying love for doing what is right. I know that what happened was awful and completely unfair, but it has really impacted the way I see human behavior and the human mind. I am not going to dwell on the fact that I lost him, but embrace the times we had and all he has ever taught me, to be strong, to be patient, and to have hope.
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