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#TeamPapa

It’s been a year, today, since our beloved Papa left us for a better place and it hasn’t gotten easier. I don’t know if it ever will.

A year ago, when I saw him at the funeral home after his death, one of the first thoughts that entered my mind and remains to this day was how tall he was. All my life, because of his age, he was always hunched over a little and I didn’t even realize how tall he truly was.

I could go on and on about my Papa and I love anytime anyone brings up Papa in conversation.

He loved reading. The Qu’ran especially. And did so daily without fail. 

Even when dementia overtook him, subhanAllah, even just hearing the words of the Qu’ran calmed him and brought peace to his mind.

He loved Kit Kats.

He loved Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Don’t ever disturb him from 7 PM to 8 PM. Without a doubt, it’s how my family and I started watching and still watch to this day. Arham, too, is already a fan.

He loved spending time with us just as much as we loved spending time with him. His presence brought a joy that I can’t describe. I loved loved loved spending any time I could with him and cherished the moments. My NJ cousins knew that if my Papa was over, all my other plans would be cancelled.

He loved us all unconditionally. I have never met anyone more genuine than my Papa, and I don’t say that in a biased granddaughter way. I created the #TeamPapa hashtag several years ago, and it’s stuck within our family. My cousin made us matching shirts with it as well.

When I was pregnant with Arham, because of his dementia we didn’t tell Papa but, subhanAllah, he would ask on the phone about the baby. When I went to visit him while pregnant, he asked where was the baby, why is the baby crying in the other room. Even with his dementia overtaking him, he still had an intuition somehow.

Although Arham got to meet him, I wish he got to grow up around Papa and see for himself who Papa was. Or why I am so fond of him. Why he brought me such joy and why his memories still bring me joy, why the memories are so strong and always positive toned.

He brought so much joy in my life, I can’t even describe it. It’s just not possible to put into words who he is for me and how much I miss his presence.

I pray Allah SWT grants him the highest place in jannat. I pray I can carry his legacy forward by being the best version of myself and make him proud. I pray I raise Arham to be the kind of person that Papa was.

 

Dual Role

Both my paternal and maternal grandmothers, unfortunately, passed away before I was born. So, what I know of them is only through stories and pictures.

33 years ago today, my maternal grandmother passed away. Two days ago, it was my Papa’s birthday. His first birthday since his demise last March. If you know anything about me, it’s how much I adore my Papa.

Papa, throughout our lives, held a dual role. He was, of course, my grandfather… but I always felt he spoiled us extra as if to do Nani’s part too. As if to make sure we never felt we were missing anything our Nani would have done for us.

I don’t think I fully understood the love Papa had for us until I saw my parents with Arham. The bond I had with Papa– I see that forming between Arham and my parents… especially with Abu. If Abu is present, Arham wants just him.

Losing Papa has left an empty space that I don’t think can be filled, as it rightfully should be for someone so dear as our beloved Papa. That void constantly reminds me of who I want Arham to be as he grows up InshAllah. I miss Papa daily, and often find myself looking at pictures of him or reminiscing of memories. I don’t know if it gets easier ever, it certainly hasn’t yet.

More than anything else, I wish Arham got to see who Papa was.

I feel as we lose the older generations that were the pillars that held our family tree together, slowly but surely, the leaves are falling off the branches. How much longer before the branches fall off and divide us completely?

Age is but a number. The level headed, down to earth honest people we had in Papa’s generation? Sadly, those characteristics didn’t carry forward as much for the next generation. Everyone has their own agenda, family ties mean nothing, good and evil are the same, morals are destroyed and values are negated.

Nothing gold can stay, and as the cycle of life goes, we must all meet our end one day… but I wish more than anything that their morals and values remained in the future generations.

If there was one thing I learned from Papa it was the value of family. He always tried to gather all five of his children, all in various states, and their respective families any chance he got. It was what made him happiest. I love that I am like him in that aspect. For me, family is everything.

Nowadays, not many value the importance of a family. It’s upsetting and unfortunate to say the very least. For me? It’s what makes the world go round. It’s what makes it worth waking up in the morning. It’s what makes one look forward to things.

And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided.” [3:103]

Nowadays, sadly, people are happiest tearing others apart. People rejoice in other people’s grief. People enjoy havoc in other people’s lives, and cause it too. People jump in to see as if it’s a spectacle.

Truths aren’t held to be self-evident anymore. The wrong are encouraged and supported, the right are put on trial.

Hypocrites say and do anything just to protect themselves. No matter who is harmed in the process. No matter who is brought down along the way. 

We are better than this.

It’s everything that Papa stood against. What is suppose to unite us, should never divide us.

It starts at home, and it starts from day one. Dual role. The man Arham grows up to be depends on what (values and morals) I teach him. I am not just raising my son, but I am potentially raising someone’s husband and someone’s father. It’s a job I take very seriously.

A different kind of dual role, but a dual role, nonetheless, of significant importance.

I know Papa would be proud of me. He always was. But I hope, more than anything that, I raise Arham to be someone that would make Papa proud too.

I pray Allah SWT grants Papa (+ Nani and Dadi) highest level of Jannat. I pray Allah SWT forgives them for any of their shortcomings. I pray Allah SWT rewards them immensely for their good deeds– especially their roles in who we have become today because of them. I pray Allah SWT leads us all to be the kind of person that people can only say positive things about, even years after they leave this world.

Papa

Papa. Not only my maternal grandfather, but one of the most humble and nicest people I have ever encountered. I was just super lucky and beyond blessed to call him my grandfather.

Most people, in fact, referred to him as Papa. Like he was a father figure to all.

His generosity? Kindness? Affection? Wisdom? Knowledge? Knew no boundaries.

I have never met even one person who had even one negative thing to say about my Papa. That cannot be honestly said about many people, but it is indeed true about Papa. In all my life, I can’t even think of a single time that he upset me or annoyed me. He was always Papa – the loving and caring self he always was. He’s been my role model since day one. He will be my role model for the rest of my life.

I loved every day I got to spend him. I loved, loved, loved just sitting with him all day whenever we were lucky enough for him to come stay over at our house. Not just his stories, but just his mere presence brought joy to me.

I loved how he would want to go everywhere with us whenever he came to visit, right down to simple errands. Like he wanted to spend time with us as much as we wanted to spend time with him. I remember the unsaid plan at the grocery stores: I’d do the groceries while my brother followed Papa throughout the store as he picked up nothing but junk food. Who wouldn’t love that?! Many times, we’d cut out things from our “to-do” lists because we were worried he would get too tired.

His love for his children and especially his grandchildren? Can’t even put into words to describe it. Just the extraordinary amount of examples flow through my head. It’s the little things you remember that mean so much. Thinking back to when we were younger, I can’t help but laugh at how much he spoiled us. That’s part of the job description for what a good grandparent is, right? If our parents said no, he would most certainly veto it. Hey, he was the boss, right? We had to listen to him 🙂 I wish Arham got to experience who Papa was.

His love for sweets [especially Kit-Kat and then later Almond Joy as well]. Tried my best to always have chocolate on hand whenever he came to visit.

His love for Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune [and then later Price is Right as well]. Don’t ever call him from 7-8 PM: he was busy watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune at that time.

His LOVE for reading the Qu’ran. He did so daily without fail.

Smiles. Laughter. Happiness. Joy. That’s what the memories are full of. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A life truly lived for others. He was one of a kind, and I am truly blessed beyond words to call him my grandfather.

Papa, I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ll miss you.  My heart aches of emptiness when I think that there won’t be a next time for you hug me and kiss my forehead like you always did. Truly, I lost a part of me. Time heals all wounds, and perhaps will ease the pain, but I hope I never forget the kind of person you were and what I want to emulate. He is everything I want Arham to be.

In recent years, as Papa’s health started to decline, I hated that he didn’t feel good inside and my heart ached for his well being. I kept thinking one thing over and over : I wish I could take it away from him. I didn’t want to dwell on what Alzheimers’ did to him and the effect it had in this post; instead I want to focus on all the great memories.

He, up there, called Papa home this morning after a very difficult three weeks for my family and I.

I’ll miss Papa with all my heart, but if there’s one consolation, it’s this: he is at peace.

Coping with Dementia [Alzheimer’s]

I am no expert by any means, but I have very quickly picked up on some dos and don’ts for when dealing with those with a form of dementia and their families from recent encounters from my experience with PapaThese are my thoughts and thoughts alone! Not one of medical professionals, not my family members, just mine. Mine and mine alone.

One. Don’t judge and say something ridiculous like: “I just talked to [your loved one] for a few minutes over the phone and it didn’t seem like there was anything wrong with him/her”. Thanks, I’m glad you came to that conclusion in the two minutes you spoke to him/her. How about being grateful, that alhumdulillah, there are still normal moments around.

Just think for a second [or ask a direct relative if just pondering over it won’t be enough] what it feels like for an immediate family when [the loved one] cannot recognize them, or know where they are at the very least.

We cherish those moments where everything seems right with the world, and those are the moments that get us through the difficult ones.

So far in our case, alhumdulillah, most “days” run smoothly for the most part. It’s the evenings and nights that pose the challenge in more ways than one.

Two. Yes, I understand what [your loved one] is saying doesn’t make sense sometimes. Deal with it, and let it go. Don’t remind him/her that s/he is wrong or correct them. Play along. Say nothing if you must, but please for the love of God don’t make [your loved one] think harder.

Three. Don’t judge the family for what they say to [your loved one] to ease their mind. Chances are, no scratch that– I’M ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE there is a reason behind it and they know better.

Four. If  you are having a conversation with [your loved one], keep it simple. Enough said.

They don’t need to know a whole life story that will probably confuse them later. And they certainly don’t need to be put through a [political/personal debate/argument]. Not necessary. Chances are some parts [or bits and pieces of many different conversations] will stick in their mind and come back later out of context. Not to mention that it’s not good for them to be over thinking either. 

Simple is good.

Again: these are my thoughts, and thoughts alone about my experience. And they definitely don’t apply broadly to every person with dementia/Alzheimers/Sundowning Syndrome.

Everyone copes differently. What works for me? Writing my thoughts and sharing experiences with my family who get it simply because they are experiencing it tooIt’s not something that is easy to explain. Chances are you have heard of someone with Alzheimer’s, but until you experience it first-handed… it’s unimaginable.

I don’t know if it makes sense or not, but my love/admiration for Papa has grown even more. I’m blessed immeasurably to have so many fond memories of/with him that I cling to on difficult days. I just came back on the 17th from Virginia after spending a week with him and unfortunately had several reminders to cherish the moment. That dementia/Alzheimer’s is ugly. I hate dementia with all my heart and soul, but love Papa with every ounce of me.

P.S. Twelve days until my parents and I leave for a trip of a lifetime, inshallah… for hajj! More on that later.

Papa and Me Time

Family is family and there is nothing like family. One of the hardest things I have had to do in a very long time [if not ever] was to say goodbye and head back home hours away this past Tuesday night after spending a wonderful week by Papa’s side.

 
There is no one better to take care of [your loved one] than a caring and loving family member. One who knows what they like and dislike, one who gets them, one who can comfort them and reason with them.
Of course, it’s not easy. And everyone’s circumstances are different and you have to do what you have to do. But a stranger can never replace the level of care a family member can provide: because most of all, [your loved one] just wants some good old company. Someone to sit by their side and talk. Or do absolutely nothing. They need to be shown how much they mean to us, that they are loved, taken care of, and an important part of our life!

I am blessed beyond words to have Papa in my life, and I loved every minute of the almost six days I had with him- the “Papa and me” time will always hold a special place in my heart. The last few days of my trip involved a lot of tears from my end, because I couldn’t imagine leaving him- what I wouldn’t do to be able to stay there longer by his side. My six days revolved completely around Papa, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, so you can imagine who weird it felt to be back home and only speak to him via the phone.

Dementia

“… among you is he who is returned to the most decrepit [old] age so that he knows, after [once having] knowledge, nothing.” [22.5].

Dementia. I don’t know whether it’s nice to hate something, but I do. I hate dementia. With every ounce of me.

It’s taken away my maternal grandfather mentally from us, and that is something that breaks my heart. The signs were there for so long, but I can’t begin to explain to you the rapid changes in just one month’s time. You just had to see it to believe it. I don’t think I would have believed it if I wasn’t experiencing it in front of my very own eyes about someone so near and dear to my heart. For someone with so much worldly knowledge and experience, to now suddenly succumb to something like this and so rapidly… I can’t put into words how much I detest it.

I don’t say this because our family can’t handle it. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Each person in the immediate family has stepped up their game and done more than their share. And done it because they want to.

Even when in your heart you already know [and we knew], when it was finally confirmed by medical professionals: it was so hard to digest and believe. Or even fathom. How could this be?

This too is a test from Him above, and together we will conquer it. It hasn’t been easy, and I know it won’t. But for someone that I have looked up to from day one? I would do anything I possibly can for him.

In some ways, it truly is like having a newborn/toddler around. You learn to have patience, and sooth their mind. You can’t leave them alone at all, and your senses need to be at the top of their game 24 hours a day. Yes, even at night when sleeping. You do things for them, and help them with other stuff. They lose their independence and they become dependent on you. Worse, they feel like a burden. How in the world do you explain to, no scratch that… not just explain, BUT show them they are anything but? We would go to the moon and back without a second thought.

And just like when a child’s toy is broken and they bring it to you to fix, you wish you could fix this for him just as easily. But you can’t. It’s broken and we can’t do anything about it. We can, only, help him physically, but that will never seem to be enough.

Amongst the family we have been talking about how so often we remember in our prayers our physical abilities, but how often do we pray to retain our mental abilities? Each part of the human body, plays such an intricate role and together makes the human body whole. Even with one deficiency, it’s as if the whole person is effected.

I’ve thought a lot about dementia lately, and every time I see Papa react a certain way, I wonder if he feels it. If he feels confused or senses something isn’t right. We, obviously, know things aren’t right. That he is confused to say the least. But we can deal with it. But I hope to God that to Papa, inside, he doesn’t sense that.

I pray to Allah SWT to make it easy on Papa. To give his mind peace. To give us strength to take care of him in the hardest of days. And that we continue to do it whole-heartedly.