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Gordie Howe is Still a Hero

I happened to stumble across an Associated Press article the other day on ESPN’s website entitled, Gordie Howe Suffers Memory Loss which reported that Gordie Howe may or may not be suffering from a mild form of dementia.  Since the release of that article, his family has expressed that these reports are greatly exaggerated, but the symptoms are almost the exact same.  The fact that it was Gordie Howe really was not the reason I clicked on the article, but the thing that really intrigued me was the dementia part.  My grandfather has suffered from dementia for about a year, and it has really been one the most difficult things to witness.  It is crazy how similar Gordie’s case is to our own case.

Click below to read on.

Gordie Howe is an old man now at 83.  My other grandfather is also 83 and he hasn’t slowed down a bit, but it is just totally random how this stuff works.  I’ve asked myself the question probably about every day, “Why does this happen?”  I have no idea because I am not a doctor, I’m a history teacher and I don’t really know anything from the medical field.  However, when I read that piece about Mr. Hockey, I felt like I was reading something about my own grandfather.  I mean, the exact same things mentioned in that article are what happen day in and day out with my own grandfather and his illness.

AP/Wide World Photos

Howe has short-term memory loss, difficulty speaking and some confusion in the evening when the sun goes down. The latter, called “sundowning,” occurs in people with dementia, although the cause is unclear.” 

“He’s always worse in the evening,” Marty said. “It’s like when the sun goes down, something flips the switch.

When I read that, it was like I had written it myself.  The same question will be asked a few times within a few minutes, but he can still remember things that happened 50 years ago to the dot.  The short term memory loss is one of the toughest things.  It’s odd how he is able to remember things from 1950, but at the same time he doesn’t recall moving to a new house two years ago or the question he just asked you.

Marty is quoted as saying that it is like flipping a switch in the evening.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.  It is as if his brain is on a timer so that as soon as the sun goes down it is time to pull a 180.  His mood changes, things become real to him that are obviously not real, like owning a pack of golden retrievers.  He is convinced they are there, but they’re not real.

“But Howe’s personality hasn’t changed, and he continues to recognize his family and friends.”

In a way, my grandfather’s personality hasn’t changed.  He still likes to joke around and still loves his sports and UK basketball.  He still loves and cherishes his family.  But, you can tell that there is something that is different.  I don’t know if it is just me knowing that there is a problem, and so I try to pick things out or what, but it is something that sticks out to me now.

Picture I took at a restaurant from the cruise ship we were on during our honeymoon.

Like Gordie Howe, my grandfather is the type of guy that you would put into the classic “man” category with the likes of George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Humphry Bogart, and Richard Winters.  Gentlemen in character, work their tails off their entire lives, and can whip you faster than Darren Helm on a breakaway.  These are the type of men I look up to and if I can be half the man that my grandfather and Gordie Howe have come to be known as, then I would call that a success.  These are the heroes that I look up to.  I love my grandfather, no matter what happens to him in these waning years and no matter what changes, and I’m sure Gordie’s family feels the same way.  Whether he has dementia or not, it is tough to see someone who has always seemed like they were indestructible your entire life begin to appear fragile.  When this started happening I questioned God and why He would allow this to happen to such an amazing and good man.  But God doesn’t do the bad things, these things just happen because this world is a fallen one.  The Bible says,

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  So the reasons why this is allowed is beyond me, so I will take heart in that and the fact that this earth is not our home.

“If you see him now, obviously you can kind of tell he’s not firing on all cylinders,” Marty said. “Most people see Gordie and they’re just happy Gordie is talking to them.”

I’m like Marty.  I’m just happy I still get to see this great man and talk to him.

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