There happened to be a box of Dominos on the table when Liz and I sat down with Dad. We started standing them on end as we chatted. We made lines and patterns and then we would knock one down creating a chain reaction. The first couple of times we did this Dad was concerned by the collapse. The he started standing the Dominos. More than once Dad was the one to tip the first Domino. He would laugh and smile, then immediately stand another Domino.
What a fun time! Dad was in such a playful mood! Joking and smiling at my daughter and me.
I have recently read through all of our posts as a way to brain storm new topics. Writing this blog continues to be a very helpful process for me. It helps me to recognize my reactions and put things into perspective.
I’m sure that regular readers have realized that there is not a real time progression of our posts. Topics are addressed as they occur or something jogs our particular memory or as situations become easier to examine.
You probably knew that though.
I’m able to see Dad most days even if only for a few minutes. I watch each change in his ability that occurs. I can slowly adjust to each loss. It’s easier that way, it’s all so gradual. I try to explain to family and Dad’s close friends. I try to assure that they are aware of the gradual march of Alzheimer’s. But I have learned that there is really no way to help another person adjust at a distance.
My older brother came to visit Dad a few months ago. He brought along a picture of our parents holding him at two months old. He wanted to share that picture with Dad and help Dad recognize their relationship. Unfortunately, Dad had no recollection of the young couple in the picture or the 65 year old man who had come to visit. Mark quickly realized that his visit would be very one sided and was really for his benefit, not our Dad’s.
More recently my sister came to visit. I think she was braced for the intellectual changes, but the physical changes really hit her hard. It had been 2 years since Karen had seen Dad. As we walked into the Inn Karen saw Dad across the room. He was sitting in his wheelchair curled forward looking at his hands in his lap, the frail little man that he has become. It was more than Karen could take. She walked right out the back door and sat crying in the garden. She took a little time to adjust before coming inside to sit with Dad, hold his hand and talk to him.
I realize that no matter what I do to decrease the impact we need to each experience our loss. It is so hard to watch.
Dad has always enjoyed car rides. He loves to see the sights. For years now we have gone for drives on a regular basis. Sometimes we have errands to run and our drives are purposeful. But many of our trips are simply sightseeing. Dad points out the buildings he likes and the ones that he finds ugly. Clouds are always significant. Big trees are important too.
Today we had a doctor’s appointment and I planned some time for sightseeing before returning to the Inn. Dad was very confused about getting into the car. He couldn’t quite figure out the process, he kept trying to step into the car. Explaining to him that he needed to sit down first confused him even more. It was a long and tiring process.
As we were driving around after the doctor I realized that Dad wasn’t enjoying the sights. He wasn’t looking at the houses or trees of clouds. He was just sitting. We were both exhausted when we arrived at the Inn.
As I drove away I realized that was our last car ride. I can no longer take Dad out for rides by myself. I also recognized that it was no longer something Dad enjoyed.
I’ll miss our adventures.
Joyce worked for Dad for several years. We all got to know her at that time. Even after they no longer worked together Dad and Joyce stayed in touch and became friends. After Dad was diagnosed Joyce would stop by to help him out or offer a ride to the store.
As it became obvious that Dad needed more help I realized that Joyce would be the perfect answer to our needs. Joyce was already working from home while taking care of her mother who had dementia. It would be a natural fit for Joyce and her mother to visit dad at his summer home.
Dad would not have been happy with any suggestion that he couldn’t live alone any more. But he was thrilled to have the company and was happy to help Joyce take care of her mother. They did everything together; the shopping, cooking, yard work, everything! Joyce even worked with dad in the shop to keep him safe while he was creating things. Their days were always full.
She was so much more than a caregiver, she was a friend.
We were so lucky to have her!
My sister has been really excited about how helpful some supplements have been to her and some of her friends. Karen is convinced they will help Dad. I talked to Dad’s gerontologist about these products. He was familiar with the line and said he saw no value to Dad for what would be a very expensive regime of supplements.
It was very difficult to tell Karen that I was not going to provide something to Dad that she very much believes in. I explained to Karen that Dad’s doctor had said no. I explained that since Dad is receiving Hospice services we are only providing comfort care, not things that will cure any conditions.
I tried to be gentle in my message, but I knew what Karen was hearing was that I was dismissing her opinion.
It’s hard when my effort to do what I think is best for Dad means that I’m losing them both.
I came across a picture of Dad this week. We were at the lake in North Carolina. There is a wonderful 15 foot tall slide into the lake. The picture shows Dad at the top of the slide, as he is starting his descent, hands in the air and a big grin on his face.
He was 73 years old when the picture was taken, but the grin belongs to a much younger man.