Alzheimer’s and A Promise To Keep

Posted: February 19, 2013 in Alzheimer's - Slipping Away
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When I was in grade school, my dad would often brag to his friends how I’d promised to look after him when he’s all grey-haired and wrinkly. Being the youngest child of three, with 10 years of gap between me and my middle sister, I was the one closest to my father. My dad and I did everything together, from watching basketball games and wrestling matches to actually playing ball. He would even indulge me in my Barbie fantasy worlds from time to time. He was my playmate, while I was the son he never had. When I got old enough, he then became my debate opponent. We enjoyed intellectually stimulating each other this way, simple discussions of current events turn into hours of healthy debates. With envious eyes, my sisters used to tell me how our father never spent this much quality time with them when they were growing up. I was a proud Daddy’s girl. And I was going to take care of him when he’s old and grey.

I flippantly told him I’d hire four sexy private nurses to look after him. That certainly made him smile. I said he won’t have to work a single day more after he retires, because I will pay for everything. He will be living in this huge house that I would have built only for him. Dream, it’s free. We will be travelling to his favourite spots; all he has to do is name the place. We will be spending a lot of time together until he gets tired of me and kicks me out of his house. I will be taking good care of him the same way he took great care of me. To him, with all these promises I’d made, every day would be a vacation. And I meant my promise to take care of him, in my then very young heart and mind. I still do now. In his eyes, I know he believed me then; I’m not as certain if he still does today.

Almost three decades later, my dad’s now 81 years old; all wrinkly and grey haired. Not one promise of mine has been fulfilled, not even the “spending so much time together” bit. He is now suffering from early stages of Alzheimer’s. I have married the love of my life and survived two miscarriages. Both of my sisters fled to the farthest country possible, while I am left with the privilege of looking after both parents. No longer into Barbie pretend play and basketball games, I have gone my own way, striving to build a worthy life. While my father’s no longer the strong and healthy man that he was, he is in the twilight of his years (as he puts it), struggling to keep his independence as his abilities continue to decline.

How time have changed so much in our lives. The most unwelcome change of all would be my dad’s Alzheimer’s. These days, the social visits have become obligatory ones. Gone are the basketball and wrestling TV time; he’d rather sleep. I’d be lucky if I could squeeze 10 minutes of fun debate out of him, with his mind constantly drifting between the past and the present. He can no longer tend the once beautiful garden he’s grown with his bare hands without tripping and falling flat on the ground. The usual cheerful conversations we used to have are now much focused on his whining about his regrets and supposed problems in life; no longer the caring and thoughtful father I knew. The trips to his favorite places we’d dreamed of doing together are now so far-fetched, with his shaky feet and his steady impatience. It’s all too excruciating to see. He is slipping away, and there is nothing I could do.

Between juggling marriage, work, the challenges of Alopecia, getting pregnant and some “me” time, I still have that precious promise to keep. So, my father and I have agreed that I’ll visit every Saturday of the week, at least. And yet despite this agreement, he would constantly beleaguer my mom with questions about my next visit (even during unholy hours of the night). He says he has something important to tell me, something that he mysteriously forgets whenever I’m visiting. Each week he tells me about his funeral preferences in detail, while my mom tells me about his long list of mishaps during the previous week. When we talk, one minute the father I love so much is there right in front of me, the next minute he’s gone. It’s all the same predicament, only a different week and possibly only getting more severe.

Alzheimer’s, nothing prepared me for this. Nobody said it was going to be easy. I have been warned it’s bound to only get worse. I refuse to witness my dad’s agonizing deterioration. I still reject the knowledge that he will be a totally different man in the next months to come. I miss him. I miss him so bad that it breaks my heart seeing him this way. I miss telling him all my troubles and his assurance that everything’s going to be alright. I miss his sense of humor and his laughter. I miss my father. My promise remains; I will endure to look after him, Alzheimer’s and all. Our battle against Alzheimer’s disease continues. I just really really miss my father.

Alzheimer’s Society
Alzheimer’s Association

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Comments
  1. David Yerle says:

    This article is so raw, honest and well-written it really got to me. Alzheimer’s is one of the illnesses that scare me the most. I really wish you the best while dealing with this. I don’t know what I’d do in your place.

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