The Effort of Listening

Throughout my childhood I paid various visits to my grandfather. I often spent time playing with blocks on his carpeted living room floor or sitting on his couch reading a book in his apartment in a nearby old folk’s home. When my grandpa was in his fifties he developed Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Currently there is no treatment or cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease. This disease basically deteriorates the brain and affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. ALS basically wears down your motor - neurons (nerve cells that pass messages from the brain to different parts of the body.) When these motor -neurons die, the brain can no longer send signals to different parts of the body to move. Usually patients become paralyzed as this disease progresses on.

The entire time I knew my grandpa, he was never ALS free. He had developed Lou Gehrig’s disease before I was born, and I never knew what he was like without it. My grandpa had trouble talking and was basically paralyzed from the waist down (not completely including his feet.) He talked in slurred syllables that were usually quite hard to understand, and my mom, grandma, uncle, and a few of his close friends were the only people who were able to understand him. Usually people that have ALS only live about 2-5 years (or less) after their diagnosis. About twenty percent of people with ALS live five years or more and up to ten percent will survive more than ten years (five percent will live 20 years.) My grandpa dealt with Lou Gehrig’s disease for a great portion of my childhood. He didn’t pass away until October of last year (when I was 12).

Even though I loved my grandpa very much, I have to admit it was difficult not being able to talk to him as much as I would have liked. Due to the fact it was hard for him to speak; I didn’t really get to have many conversations with him, and had trouble understanding what he was saying. As my grandpa’s disease developed and got worse, there were only certain parts of his body he could still move. Whenever he had a really hard time talking, he typed us messages so we would be able to know what he was saying. He had a device that allowed him to use the movement of his feet to be able to type on his computer, because he could not use his hands.

Thinking about it currently, my grandpa was a really cool person. Even though he couldn’t talk easily he still made an effort to communicate with us. As a child, it was amazing for me to think that my mom, grandpa, and uncle always knew exactly what he was saying. Even though it was hard for them at times they made an effort to understand him. Thinking about it now, I think all of us should make an effort to listen to each other. If no one listened to my grandfather, even though he had trouble speaking, he would’ve felt really alone, and the same goes for everyone else. I think the majority of the time people really just need someone to talk to. My grandpa always thanked us for coming over and said he really enjoyed our company. The more we listen to each other, the better off we will be. Everyone’s ideas come together to form the world in which we live. It could be your elderly next door neighbor, a new friend who just moved here, a bus driver. Seriously everyone and anyone can shape the world in which we live just by what comes out of our mouths. I consider myself very blessed to have been able to know my grandfather, and I’m happy he didn’t pass away before I was born. If everyone made more of an effort to listen to each other, maybe in the long run we wouldn’t feel so alone.