It was filled with facts about parts of the brain and Alzheimer's disease. I had been researching the disease for quite some time, trying to keep up to date on all that there was to know and recognize about Alzheimer's disease.
By then, I had come to the conclusion that I would become a neurologist specializing in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. This career path was inspired by my grandfather's personal battle with the first. The latter due to the common diagnosis of Alzheimer's came with Parkinson's or Parkinsonism, or vise-versa.
For the next year and a half, I spent all the time that I could with my grandfather. As my mother took care of him during the day for a majority of that time, I would come over after school sometimes. The weekends were also a day filled with my grandfather. As I worked on homework at his kitchen table, I would take breaks and spend time with him. On the days I didn't bring homework with me, I just sat with him and talked to him as my mom or aunt talked in the other room or did something around the house.
I was told stories of his childhood a few times occasionally, but that didn't matter to me. He was proud to share those stories and to bring a smile to my face. When I asked questions, he would answer and we would joke around. During the final year with him, I truly appreciated the little things in life, such as making my grandfather smile because I got him ice cream.
Our last Father's Day together was also my birthday. I spent my 17th birthday with my grandpa, making jokes and celebrating him. It's quite something the fact that I was born on Father's Day and the final Father's Day we spent together was also my birthday. I was his first granddaughter and he spent his last Father's Day with the same grandchild born on that holiday.
After a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, on top of a few other health issues, my grandfather decided to end his journey with us on Wednesday, January 20, 2016. I was taking my psychology midterm exam at the exact moment he took his last breath. Another ironic thing since I was in a class that was about the brain and it was with my favorite teacher. My grandfather waited until I was in a class that I loved with a teacher that was the best to leave. I had said goodbye the night before, after studying for my anatomy midterm exam taken before the one for psych.
It was kind of a rushed goodbye unfortunately because his roommate came out of the bathroom and started talking to me, but that's just how life works sometimes. His roommate didn't mean to, and I know my grandfather understood.
Now I am in my first year of a master's program. I am still planning on becoming a neurologist. The inspiration for this career still holds true. My grandfather has forever shaped me, in many ways. Not only for the love of neurology, but also things. I will continue to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association each year as I have, and continue my advocacy for the disease that took my grandfather, whom eventually became my best friend.
As my grandpa said, I'm going to become "a brain doctor" and I will figure out "what's going on inside [his] head". Stephie is going to continue this fight for you, Grandpa. We will find a cure.
Thank you for helping advance Alzheimer's support, care and research.
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