Reflections of how life used to be...
Through the mirror of my mind, time after time, I see reflections of you and me. It's been a year since I last posted--dad is nearing 89 and I'm now 34. I've become somewhat habituated to the routine, being able to anticipate needs, and recognizing the good days from the bad. Everyone in the house has--to varying degrees--made similar progression in their own coping/management of what can feel at times, downright intolerable.
My mom, who always lives with us--had been voicing for months that he's showing signs of dementia. I wouldn't hear it. I couldn't hear it. My often quick and defensive response was that "He's in his late 80s, of course there is going to be some memory loss".
How does one really prepare for what again is? I also don't know what, if any, is the appropriate response or reaction to facing the reality that dementia is presenting in my father. Early on, it was largely day-to-day memory difficultly--something that could be just 'normal' aging. It has progressed over the past year and it's unavoidable to notice that he has language difficulties, always trying to start a train of thought or participate in a conversation that eventually ends after several rounds of prompting b/c he can't find the words of what to say. It's HEARTBREAKING. As his child, I can only envision my dad as he was while growing up. He was (is) one of my best friends and biggest supporters. A vibrant man with such intellectual prowess he shaped the person I have become. As such, I feel to an extent in the interest of self-preservation/coping, that i have become quite adverse to really seeing, and accepting, who he has become.
The paranoia and subsequent sleeplessness from preoccupations of thoughts has started to impact his functional abilities during the day. And it's the little things like not being able to be ready on time to go to appointments any longer. And when we do have plans--most often at places we've been repeatedly--he seems to have no recollection of ever having been there, as if every time we go to the doctor's office--it's always the first time.
So here I am, trying to be the adult. Trying to be flawless in my management of things. To be strong. Trying to rationalize the irrational behaviors--and not lose my mind in the process--with behaviors like the repetitive questioning, restlessness or general agitation he experiences at times. Yesterday was my first glaring glimpse of what I understand is yet another symptom, false accusations and this notion that people are 'stealing' from him. I took him to lunch after an appointment at which I was asking how he was doing today and he said he didn't sleep at all the night before. I prompted for more info and he finally was able to muster the words that he was "preoccupied in the night with thoughts of your mother". (Side note: my parents are divorced and have been for 15 yrs.) Again, I solicited for more info--what kind of thoughts? Did something happen? He then called my mom a "sneak thief" and accused her of stealing his bath mats from his old bathroom. Wait, what?! I couldn't wrap my head around what I hearing. The day continued like this, every so often there was yet another thing that "mysteriously disappeared"--a comforter for instance, that mom must have stolen. He says he doesn't trust her. The fact of the matter is, prior to use moving him in--he lived alone--for many years. I realize the transition when we moved him was jarring to his routine. I did my absolute best to recreate his exact living space and organize things the same way he had it. For the entire first year, when things would turn up missing--and or were simply not unpacked--he was quick to fire off that the movers stole from him, or that things that ARE his, are not--and his stuff had disappeared. Now it seems transference has occurred from blaming the movers to blaming mom. As my girlfriend and I work full time, my mom who is retired but decades younger than dad, helps out during the day and goes above and beyond to make life as easy for him as we can. It would not only offend and upset, but likely make her question further why she deals with him at all. It's not her responsibility but rather she does it from the kindness of her heart, her love for me--their only child, and in some part because of the 30 yrs they spent married.
I have days like yesterday where I'm at a complete loss. My heart is so filled with sadness and loss of a man who was once everything i wanted to emulate in a person, husband, and provider--only to have his physical presence but rapidly fleeting is the person he was. I don't cry about it as much as I feel I could, I bottle it--and don't always feel that others really can relate/understand just what it is to experience this sort of transition with a loved one, particularly a parent. Perceptions of reality do not always align with the experiences we face as they are felt in our hearts and minds.
As I often uttered in my childhood days when he would leave for business trips--I love you, Dad. Please don't go.