Column by J1 reporter Sydney Witkowski
June 15, 2020. What seemed like a regular night hanging out with friends turned into one of the most heartbreaking days of my life. A day that will always be in my heart, and a conversation that will be burned into my mind for my life to come.
My grandfather battled dementia for two years. I never fully understood how bad it was until the day I was told he was going to be admitted into Country House, a memory care home in Lincoln, Neb. This was so hard for me to grasp, but I knew it would be for the better. My grandma’s life would be less stressful, my parents, aunts, and uncles would worry less about both of my grandparents, and professionals would be there to properly help my grandpa.
My family’s plan was that we would visit him every once in a while, or take him out for the day. This plan was ruined because in March, COVID-19 precautions began to strengthen. What this meant for my grandpa was that he was allowed no visitors, not even his own wife. He was limited on activities he could do, and got weekly COVID tests done, just to make sure he was healthy. Although all of the Country House staff said he was always in a positive mood, I know that he was hurting. I can’t imagine battling a mental illness that makes you not yourself, that makes you not know who is who and what is going on in your life, and not being able to socialize with the new people you are now spending everyday of your life with, who are in the same situation as you.
June 15, 10:03 p.m. The exact minute I was standing in my driveway and got a phone call from my mom, a phone call that I will never forget. I asked where my dad and her were. I had driven home and opened the garage door to see my dad’s truck missing. That’s when she told me,“Honey we’re driving to Lincoln…. grandpa died.” Instantly tears streamed down my face I choked up a cracked, “What?” I remember feeling the tears instantly slide down my face and neck. I squatted down as my legs grew weak, I was physically and emotionally broken.
My first thought to myself was “I never got to say goodbye.” As it got later, more thoughts rushed into my head. Thoughts of how I wasn’t a good granddaughter, how hurt my grandma must have been, and how this all happened, and how it happened so fast. I still haven’t completely coped with the death of my grandpa, but I have grown.
I’ve learned to never take a moment for granted. I’ve learned to not hesitate to tell people you love them, and to not have the mentality that the sentence, “I’ll see you soon” is a guarantee. I’ve learned to hug my loved ones for a little longer than normal, and to soak in every single moment with them. So next time you see your grandpa, hug him a little tighter for me and my grandpa who never knew that our last hug would be the last.