Sunday, March 31, 2013
March 31, 2013: Seven Months That Dad Has Been Hospitalized.
I don't write about dad's Alzheimer's much anymore. It seems that when I do all I end up doing is repeating the same tragedy. And it tires me writing about it because there is never anything new about dealing with this except the profound sense of loss that drags on. The disease is not going to back off, no cure or pill to halt the symptoms will be miraculously discovered. Alzheimer's is going to continue to worm its way into my dad's brain like a thief. And no one can stop it. There is no hope. None at all.
Alzheimer’s is a vicious enemy. Unrelenting unforgiving, un-everything. It hits families and keeps on hitting with more and more cruelties. It progresses until all the family is left with is a desperate wish for it all to end, and the guilt that accompanies that wish.
It has been three years since I have really had a conversation with my dad. I told him today that I wish he and I could still talk. He said, "Me too". My dad is still here in body, but he is a bent, confused, tearful shell of himself. My father lives 24/7 in a Veteran’s Administration Hospital. He is dependent on others to do every basic living task for him. He has to be fed and bathed. He has be supported and led on the rare occasions when he walks; a shuffling, tiny stiff legged walk, thanks to his accompanying Parkinston’s. He has to be assisted in and out of bed. He suffers from an inability to speak coherently in what is known as aphasia. He cries almost constantly, becomes easily frustrated, gets angry.
Last week my dad looked straight at me and asked who I was. And I had been with him three hours that day. That was the first time he has asked me that. I know that the chances of his remembering who I am grow dimmer and dimmer each day. He seems to have regressed to a point of about five to ten minute spans of memory. I once read that a goldfish has a memory of approximately ten seconds. My oftentimes dark and sardonic outlook takes a twisted solace in the fact that my dad’s memory is, at least, better than a goldfish’s. My father’s eighty-seven year old mother visited him recently and within fifteen minutes of her leaving he didn’t even remember she had been there. In fact, he quite adamantly insisted that he hadn’t seen her in a very long time. I gave up trying to convince him otherwise.
On Dad’s especially “bad” days he contorts his wheelchair bound body into an almost 45 degree angle attempting to retrieve objects from the floor that only he can see. On those days it is virtually impossible to get him to sit up long enough to feed him dinner. And joining him in his bent over contortions so that a bite of food can be spooned into his mouth is an exercise in physical and mental exhaustion. Those are the days when I only manage to hold back the tears until I have made it safely to the interior of my car in the hospital parking lot. Those are the days that I cry until my entire body shakes with the unbound grief.
My brother, who has only in the past year allowed himself to look dead on into the face of Alzheimer’s, manages to keep his emotions in check and, on the surface at least, appears pragmatic and unaffected. I know he isn’t. He has a family, a young child, a demanding job that entails his being out of town more than he is home. I live closer to my mother, and although I did attempt to ‘run way” by taking a teaching job overseas last year, I quickly admitted defeat and came back to the United States. Alzheimer’s keeps winning. And it will keep on winning. There is nothing we can do. We are powerless.
My mother, who cannot accept that this awful, almost unspeakable thing has happened, gets by day-to day the best way she knows. She visits my dad several times a week, perhaps too often. She overextends herself, tries to distract dad from his continuous crying jags and the sadness that he can no longer articulate. She talks to him, champions for him, then goes home alone to a house that she and my dad made together, pretends that Dad just might get better, then plummets to low lows when she admits to herself that he has descended into a place where we can’t go, a place from which we can’t rescue him. The Unmemory Place..
Posted by Liti