There are a lot of parts to me, but the biggest is my Lebanese family. And my family is really big. Everything about them, too! Their appetite, sense of humour, capacity for noise… They’re, well, we’re always having fun together. But behind all of that, the life of the party are my grandparents. Taita and Jiddoo. (That’s Arabic for Grandma and Grandpa.)
I have always had a strong relationship with Taita and Jiddoo. Even now that Jiddoo has liver problems, causing often sicknesses and Taita has Alzheimer’s disease, a strong feeling of happiness and joy still radiates from them both, and it always has, for as long as I can remember.
I still have many memories of Taita from before she was diagnosed, from when I was little and we lived in Balmain, when we would see them at least once a week. Some of the most vivid memories are from when she used to chase me around the house with food while I would be preoccupied with my ‘Fizz the Fire truck” ride on.
I can also remember some incidents when she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Once, Jiddoo was cutting down a tree in the yard whilst Taita was making her famous garlic sauce, using a stone mortar and pestle. Not wanting him to cut it down, she tried to knock on the window to tell him to stop – but, with the pestle in hand, ended up unintentionally shattering the window.
It has been very odd for me, going from being looked after by her to looking after her. Watching her overall decline has been very upsetting, but the good part is that she is still happy – her face lights up whenever people smile at her and she can still say some things now and again, most of it in Arabic. (For example when she called my dad ‘Helu’, which means handsome.) It’s great that she remains at home instead of going to a nursing home, thanks to her loving family that is always there to help her and pay for carers to come and look after her, too.
Just because she has forgotten a lot, it doesn’t mean we forgot about her. For example, just a few months ago it was her eightieth birthday. Her daughters dressed her up and took her to get her hair done. That evening the whole family (all 7 of her children, including the one from England, their kids, partners, etc.) came to celebrate at a beautiful Lebanese restaurant. It was, well, beautiful.
I know I’ve ended up going on a tangent about my Taita, but she is the biggest part of this family and it wouldn’t be the same without her, biologically and emotionally. Whether I’m having Nerf wars with my big cousins, cooking with my aunties, making movies with my little cousin, Ezekiel, working on cars with my uncles, enjoying crude humour with Jiddoo, or sitting with Taita, I love my everything about my Lebanese family and I always will.
A big thank you to Aidan Younane and his family for sharing this story about their Taita, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia can affect the whole family. There a lots of resources about talking to children about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
If you would like to know more about discussing dementia with children please phone the National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500 or view our help sheet Information About Dementia For Young People.
What a wonderfully uplifting story, thank you for sharing. We in days gone by, all had extended family to look after the 'oldies' as we called them. Now, alas only some cultures are still practicing what used to be the 'norm'. So again I thank you Aidan, good to see family values still thriving in Australia.