Monday, October 22, 2007

Talking with my dad

As I mentioned long ago, my father has Alzheimer's. He is on medication, which keeps him calm but it's clear that the disease is progressing. I only see him once a year (if I'm lucky), so I haven't seen him since last November.

It's very hard to see him like this.

As hard as it is for me, I know that it's infinitely harder for my mother to live with on a regular basis and for my younger sister who has been taking care of him for the 5 weeks my mom has been here taking care of me. I understand that people with Alz have a hard time coping with small children, probably because small kids are so busy and it jangles your nerves. Hell, when kids are really busy and/or I'm tired it jangles my nerves, so I can imagine just how much worse it is for people like my dad. The problem is how he is responding to the normal actions of my 2 year old nephew: not well. It's breaking my sister's heart. I ache for her and for all of us. He's not the man my mother married, he's not the father I loved as a young child who was very silly and playful (and from whom I inherited my share of the Silly Gene). He's not the grandfather that he might have been.

Dad raked my yard for me (Yay!) to give himself something to do that would be away from the rest of the family, 2 infants and 2 small kids. Easy work that would be quiet and useful. I went out to talk to him during a nursing break. I wanted to chat with him for a bit without a lamprey attached to my chest, so I snuck out the door after depositing a baby on a willing relative. We talked about my garden, which he admired even in its current unkempt state. We talked about the twins, whom he admired in their tiny, newborn state. We talked about Caitlin, whom he also admired in her bright, funny 6 year old state. He mentioned that he had good looking kids and grandkids, all thanks to Mom. He said she was a beautiful girl (and he meant currently, not just referring to her youth) and that he was lucky (as were all of us recipients of said looks) to have married her and had children with her.

I pointed out my crab apple tree and we started talking about his apple trees. He planted them with his own hands into the Cadillac of Holes, filled with OCD-lovingingly sifted compost. He asked if I liked...and then couldn't remember the term for what he wanted to ask me about. Rhubarb? Sauce? Apple sauce, I inquired? Yes, that was it. He sad down on the edge of the wheelbarrow, his shoulders slumped. He laughed deprecatingly.

"I wish I was joking," he said to me.
"I wish you were too, Dad." I responded. "I know you're not. I know it's hard."

He's fading away and he knows it. He gets so frustrated with himself, with his brain for failing him, with his failure to remember so simple a thing as apple sauce when we were talking about apple trees and the load of apples that he'd gotten off his own trees back in Canada. Mom says he no longer remembers how to make whipped cream, which he used to make all the time for strawberry shortcake. That was one of his specialties. He forgot that my brother was his 3rd child - not for long, but it happened. I gave him a box of chocolates when he first arrived and by the second day he'd forgotten that he'd received them. How much longer will he remember that he even has new grandchildren? Or even the pre-existing grandchildren? Or his own children?

I don't think he'll forget mom. As it is, she's so much a part of his life that he's inserted her into memories she doesn't belong in. He's 12 years older than her and didn't even meet her until he was 33. His altered memories have her starring in roles when she wasn't even alive yet or before they'd met. In many ways that's ridiculously sweet and strangely romantic. I sometimes feel like I've always been with Eric, even though that's not possible (And only sometimes in the negative time dilation, OMG! I've known you forever kind of way.), so I understand where he's coming from that way.

My throat closes up on tears whenever I talk to him and he has a weird little episode like the apple sauce issue. He reminisces more than normal these days but they are broken accounts now. He loses track of what he was talking about within the time span of a single sentence. I wanted him to get to know my children, but that won't really happen now. Will he be in a continual state of surprise when he sees them or is told about them? Will it be like meeting them for the first time over and over again? Mom will have to remember for both of them. I just have to accept that he won't have a relationship with my children, that he probably won't remember them for much longer and that he won't be able to deal with how busy they can be.

Acceptance sucks.

I'd like my father back, please.
Dad with Logan. He was nervous about holding him, but taking a page from my sister's book, I didn't give him any choice and plopped Logan down into his arms. A paparazzi moment ensued.

3 comments:

Red Flashlight said...

Yes! I really really miss my Dad. I wish I hadn't been such a young and foolish thing when I SHOULD have been talking to him. Bonding with him over apple trees and raking. I know it's bittersweet, but it's good you're there to talk with him now - I'm sure you're more than aware of that.

People are just irreplaceable, aren't they? Unique and priceless.

Underemployed Nama said...

All you can do is treasure the moments you have, Hatchet, and you're really good at that. Sometimes life sucks and blows chunks.
Love and hugs.

Scylla said...

I love you honey.
I feel your pain. Not the same pain, it was my grandparents for me, so it was removed from me a little, but I feel it.

I am sorry there isn't anything that can make it better.

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