I am asked daily about my dad, and it touches my heart. I am told at least once a week a story about my dad, and an act of kindness or generosity that he performed, and I just love it. Someone that I barely know asked me if he was my dad the other day, and after I said yes, they proceeded to tell me a story about him, and another person told me that he had given her a book when she graduated from high school back in the sixties and that she still had it (she was at least 65 years old). These are the stories that keep me going.
My mom has a rote response when asked about my dad: “He’s holding his own.” I have started saying that also. Is he really, though? No, not really.
People with this disease don’t get better, they only get worse. I won’t bore you with the details, but about 5 weeks ago, Dad was put back in a Geriatric Psych unit because of some behavioral issues, and just this past 2 weeks has been back at his “home.” I hadn’t seen him since the end of May, and the boys and I went down last Sunday.
He knew us, I will say that much. He still knows my sons by name, but I could tell he struggled that day. He couldn’t find words easily at all, and I noticed that he really had to concentrate to communicate at all.
This is all par for the course with this horrible disease. We should stop being so surprised, I tell myself. And most of the time I am okay with it. There are times that I cry at everything and rail at the fate that has befallen my dad. An older gentleman in our church offered prayer during our service the other day, and my heart broke again because his prayer was eloquent and understandable and coherent, and my dad is younger than him and is using made up words and can’t think of the right words to say in conversation.
I just get sad, you know? I had a friend of my dad’s, an auto body shop owner that my dad thought the world of, tell me that my dad was one of the smartest men he had ever known. I smiled and said, “I know.”
We struggle with it daily. My poor mom, she is torn between her parents and my dad. My grands both now have Alzheimer’s, and she is having to tend to them 3-4 times a week, because they are still living on their own. At least my dad is being taken care of.
My dad is still there, though. During his stay in geri-psych, he had a dog. When my mom mentioned that, I just looked at her, and she smiled and said that he told her, “I have a dog, it’s not real but it breathes.”
See, my dad loved his animals, especially his dog. The last dog he had, who was a poor specimen due to the huge tumor on his side, would follow my dad anywhere. I knew my dad was on his way if Skip showed up at my house, or I would know that Dad had just been there, if Skip was here. And that dog died less than a week after my dad went to assisted living.
And he really liked that dog at geri-psych, so my mom has ordered his own “dog”. I don’t know why we didn’t think of this before; I often see the little old ladies in these places with baby dolls, why not men having their stuffed dogs?
So I look forward to seeing him with his new dog, and I look forward to him asking me to shave him, and I look forward to seeing him look at my boys with longing and what he can manage as love.
And please keep asking me about him. Because he is still here. And just give me a pat on the back or tell me you will keep praying for us. Because he was once the smartest man I knew too.