An Essay About Grandpa Moon

By Madison Mondshine

As time never stops pushing forward, my grandpa’s mind somehow defies this law by taking steps backward.  It has continued with this irreversible act for years now. I remember my parents telling me that Moon (the nickname given to my grandpa) could no longer drive. He had gone to get a haircut a few blocks away from his house and ended up lost for hours. A simple task he has performed for years gone astray. This is when signs of dementia began creeping into Moons life. He started by labeling everything from light switches to keys. Once a pediatrician with a memory that never skipped a beat, Moon was now a man labeling objects within his own home. Eight years ago not only did Alzheimer’s attach itself to Moon, but to my family.

 My grandparents, Shirley and Moon, I can honestly say are two of the most unique, positive, loving, and social people I have ever met. They both enjoy learning, birding, traveling, and most of all people. The two met at Jefferson Davis hospital where Shirley was a pediatric nurse and Moon himself a pediatrician. They have now been together fifty seven years and have impacted every single one of their children and grandchildren in such an indescribable way. Everything I have to say about them falls short of how lovely they genuinely are. There are so many lessons they have taught us, but one of the greatest is the lesson of love. To love oneself, to love others, and to love the world we are in. They remind us that we all have a choice in life. We have the choice to give and receive love or we have the choice to neglect it. I, and my family, have chosen the former. With love we may endure through adversity, and without it adversity may swallow us whole.

After only three years of college, Moon was accepted into three medical schools, Baylor being his school of choice. After graduating and a year of Pediatric internship he became Chief Resident due to his clinical skills. Moon spent his whole life as a pediatrician keeping others healthy and telling them how to remain in good health. It is ironic that now not even he can control what is happening to himself. No one can cure him. Moon has saved many lives, he has brought joy to many people, and he has continued to carry laughter with him everywhere he goes. His attitude is infectious and he can make a joke out of anything.  He is a poet, a golfer, a scholar, a singer, a beach walker, a seashell collector, a traveler, and a birder. I think I can speak for my entire family when I say Moon has been an inspiration to us all. He is a hard worker and goes after what he wants and most importantly he does everything with a smile. Moon has impacted a countless amount of lives be it a family member, a patient, or a friend. There is nothing negative about to say him and I have never heard of a single soul who did not admire Moon. I think that says a lot about him as a human being. Regardless of the fact that he has an identical twin, Moon is truly one of a kind. He is unforgettable.

One of the toughest effects of Moon’s dementia, and I think my family would agree, is watching Shirley lose time for herself. As a wife, a mother, and a grandmother she is extremely giving of herself, but she also stresses the importance of independence and alone time to keep one happy and healthy. As Moon’s disease has progressed Shirley has lost more and more of her time to taking care of him. By no means is she bitter about her current place in life. She says simply that her journey is now about her strengths rather than freedom. Moon does spend some time weekly at a Senior Citizen Center called Sheltering Arms, but it took some time for Shirley to finally get more help taking care of him. Though Moon’s disease has been maturing for eight years, I have seen Shirley cry just once about it. She has chosen to stay positive through the remodeling of their lives and this has made all the difference. The ambush of Alzheimer’s did not cease Shirley’s ever growing heart, but has proven its strength. Even though it would be nice for Moon to regain his memory, it is not the reality Alzheimer’s has planned for him. Our family has not chosen to ignore this reality, but rather persevere with the love passed down by Shirley and Moon themselves. His identity, his character, his nature does not lie within his memory, but in his love; thus Moon will never fade.  

It is common for someone with Alzheimer’s to often be confused. This confusion can lead to anger, outbursts, and behavior that this person would never exhibit otherwise. Though I have witnessed Moon confused, worried and distraught, I have never seen him become angry in any circumstance. At times he is discontent with his location, but he has never been discontent with people. After meeting someone he immediately loves them and claims they are wonderful kissing them on the cheek and smiling like he has just won something grand. What amazes me most though, is his dedication and affectionate love for Shirley. He clings to her. If she is present he is more peaceful and when she is gone he constantly asks, “When will she be back?” I recently asked him if he remembered meeting Shirley and I have never seen anyone light up the way he did as he told me there story. He may not remember what he ate for breakfast, but as sure as the sun sits in the sky he knows of Shirley’s immense love for him and he loves her just the same. Though everlasting love is at times viewed as a cliché, I know it is what keeps Moon content. It keeps our family close and keeps Shirley sane. As time continues to move forward, Moon’s brain may continue to fall back, but Moon’s love for others and his love for Shirley will never dim. He will always have a brightness about him. An abiding brightness in his eye that will outlive his memory. I believe that despite God permitting this disease to take place in such a man as Moon, he would never render it the power to take away the love Moon possesses. It is a love I am grateful to have and to have witnessed.  

It is strange how we may find things coming together as they are falling apart. As I have watched an extraordinary man deteriorate I have seen his soul stand. As I have watched a woman slowly lose her freedoms I have seen her remain grateful. As I have seen these lives change I have not seen it alone. A family has suffered a tremendous tragedy and yet the only outcome is growth. Growth of love. Growth of compassion. Growth of patience and understanding. As I have watched a wonderful man deteriorate I have seen a family grow.


Bio written by Grandma Shirley: Madison is a lovely multitalented seventeen year old. Art is and has been her life-long passion even though she writes and sings beautifully. She is the middle child of five sisters with whom she enjoys hiking, snow skiing, and traveling .For the past several summers she has done missionary work through her church and really enjoyed helping others. In September Maddie will enter the University of Texas as an art major.  (We are so proud of and for her--a true blessing!)




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