Monday, January 26, 2009

A Good Day with my Dad

I've written previously (here) that my dad was diagnosed with dementia and it continues to get progressively worse. It's a sad topic that fills me with dread, and so I don't talk about it much.

The summer of 2007, I was able to spend a lot of time with my dad since I wasn't working, and it was important to me that my daughter bond with her grandfather and have memories of him, and vice versa. The firm that I work for now generously offered me the opportunity to work remotely on Mondays so I can continue to see my father. Monday are important because it's the one day of the week that he sometimes remembers I'm coming to see him.

We started to notice that it was getting bad and wasn't the usual "I forgot where I left my keys or wallet" type forgetfulness, when he couldn't remember if he had eaten or not. Nor could he remember the food that he had just eaten 10 minutes before. So he could have eaten 5 times or not at all and he would have no memory of it. That includes taking his medication. So now my mother makes sure he takes his medication in the morning, prepares meals for him when she's at work by attaching a note saying what time to eat it and to call her.

It has been so sad to see my dad who used to read every inch of the newspaper, and who was in the newspaper business for over 16 years, not bother anymore, and the LA Times piling up outside his house unopened. And my dad the All-American who lettered in football, baseball, basketball, wrestling, track and field, and was even co-captain of his high school football team, no longer caring about any sport. I have many fond memories of falling asleep on the couch watching a ball game with my dad, the avid sports fan. Now he doesn't even know what sport is in season.

There have been days that he has not wanted to leave the house. Others where he has been completely confused. When we are at a restaurant, he cannot remember where we are seated, so if he uses the restroom, or gets some food at the buffet, he gets lost. I also know there have been days he cannot remember my daughter's name, and calls her "the girl". And he'll ask the same questions over and over again, forgetting that he just asked it 5 minutes ago. This used to upset me immensely, but now it's so common that I've come to expect it.

When I share the latest sign of dementia with my mother, she laughs. I guess it's either that or cry right? She's seen it all, and lives with it everyday, whereas I'm the visitor who goes home at the end of the day.

So today, we went to a Chinese buffet restaurant that he loves. I spotted him sitting at another table, but he immediately got up and walked back with us to our table. And I kept an eye out for him when he went to use the restroom, so as soon as he came back out my daughter ran over to him to show him the way back to where we were sitting. We even had a nice conversation at lunch which has been missing for awhile.

Then my dad says to me, "Look at that water buffalo over there." I turn to look hoping he's talking about a painting. No such luck. Now I have a 3 year old who does the same thing, "Why is she so big mom?" A 3 year old doesn't know better. A man in his 70's does, but it's one of those things that dementia does - it takes away the filter. And it can be downright embarrassing as he has no understanding that he's being rude or that others can hear him.

After lunch we normally go to the park and sit on a bench together and watch her play with other neighborhood children. But today it was too cold to sit outside, so we played indoors instead. It was sweet to see my Grandpa and Granddaughter playing together.

I know there will come a day when he won't remember who she is, and that at a later date he'll no longer remember who I am, but I do cherish the remaining good days that he has. I know he loves me and my child. There's never a question about a lot of love being there. It just pains me to know that the man I know, my father is disappearing. I was always daddy's little girl, so that probably makes it even more difficult, as no matter how much we butt heads in the past, we always respected and loved one another. It's hard as hell to say good-bye in your own way to someone who is still living and who you love very much.

All day today, my dad was pretty clear headed, and as I was getting ready to leave and drive home, he said, "Do you still live in that house with the view of the city?"

"Yes, dad. I still live there," I answered. (What a funny thing to ask I thought, since I never moved.)

"It's funny how just now I could remember that," he said. And I could see him picturing my house and the view from my balcony in his mind. And it made me smile.


Anonymous said...

How sad for you all Rose to slowly lose your Dad this way. His thoughts are so confused and muddled--can you imagine? Always keep in mind that he may no longer remember but you do. What a good memory you made with him remembering you home.

Rose said...

Thanks Jeannie for your kind words.

JenK said...

Rose, I'm so sorry.

Hell. My heart hurts for you.

Rose said...

Thanks Jen. I felt so good about my dad remembering my house and about the great day he had. Yet, I spent most of the evening crying. It's tough.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it's been an emotional roller coaster for you, but how wonderful that you are able to spend your Mondays with him. Those memories will live with you forever- cherish the time you have with him.

I remember meeting him at your wedding. We sat together for awhile while we were waiting for you to meet him to walk down the aisle.