Sunday, July 16, 2006

84 I become nameless

My mom took my dad to the senior center to try to get him enrolled in a program for those with dementia and the woman asked my dad a lot of questions. She ascertained that he knows he has one child which is a daughter but as far as that daughter's name...a blank stare.
I knew it was coming. I'm not hysterical about it. He knows when he sees me that I'm that daughter. That's what counts, right?
The anxiety medicine hasn't completely erased all his OCD. He still has no sense of proportion. Everything is equally important. It's like the boy who cried wolf--you just can't pay attention to every time he gasps or cries out because most of the time it's something insignificant. Perhaps not to him, I don't know. He can't explain himself anymore.
I had to climb to the top of Sleeping Giant to take pictures for a magazine article I'm writing. I was going to go today but it was supposed to be really hot so my mom said she'd go with me early on Saturday instead. My leg has been a lot better and I've been working out so I figured I could do the climb. I knew it wouldn't be the cakewalk it was when I was 19.
It was very difficult--the climb up and down took me 3 hours (3.2 miles total) and by the end I was stumbling, barely able to move. We saw a pair of deer and I took some pictures and then some rowdy people with dogs came along talking loudly. We asked them to be quiet and not scare the deer but they really didn't seem to care. My father just kept saying "shh" in a really loud voice and it was probably him who scared away the deer. He is the one who spotted the first deer and I saw the 2nd one. Boy are they well-camouflaged. Almost as good as copperheads (which we didn't see, but that doesn't mean they weren't there!).
A couple of times we saw butterflies which would have made his day but they didn't stick around, just cruised by, and he wouldn't move on, waiting for them to come back.
I had to keep stopping to rest and my dad would hover uncertainly. I told him repeatedly not to wait for me, just to go, but he didn't get it. Or he would meander far behind my mother and I, barely walking, picking at the skin on his hands and elbows. So our walk was a constant refrain of "come on" "don't pick" "stop picking" "don't wait for me" And of course "are we there yet?" Once we got "there" (the castle) then he had to go to the bathroom. And like a barely potty trained child, he had to go NOW. Well there's no bathrooms at the top and no privacy in the bushes so my parents headed down the mountain without me to get him to a bathroom. That's how he's been lately--must go NOW--he can't hold it at all, or maybe he doesn't understand the early signals of having to go. Combined with his professed ignorance of blowing massive farts, I wonder how long it will be before he's incontinent.
He tries so hard though, even though the things he says make no sense. When my parents dropped me off to stumble into my house, he thanked me (for what?) and said something about me having a good time. A good time!? I could barely walk into the house and climb in a very cold shower.


Patty McNally Doherty said...

By the time my father died, he had no idea who I was. On good days, I was on his A list. On bad days, I was on his B list. There was no qualifier, just how the sun rose on that particular day.

He was blanketed in forgetfullness, the only one who didn't know what was happening. For him, that must have been the easiest part, for me, it was the hardest. I knew what he was losing.

Alzheimer's turned the world around him into a planet I didn't recognize. His friends, once so loyal and true - gone. His own children, my siblings, swearing their undying love - gone. Few remained by his side until he died. They all said it was too hard.

I can't describe the world I live in today, without mentioning it didn't exist before he lost all memory of his own. Once-secure landmarks have changed. What I had sworn to be solid ground, is pitted with truthful holes of reality. We are woefully unprepared to handle this disease. At home, in nursing homes, anywhere.

Your journal is an oasis for me. And the love you have for your father is evident in every key stroke. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude for each one.

Anonymous said...

Gevera--I was nodding my head as I read your entry. My mother's situation is so similar to your father's--I know she knows me, even though she isn't always sure of my name. I never thought I'd be able to deal with that, but you get the strength you need as you go along. Take care of yourself.