Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Another day, another moment: life with Dad

The holidays rushed past me, like they always do.

Since the onset of both of my parents' dementia everything has fundamentally changed.  It is the hardest thing, I think, to lose who you are piece by piece.

I am not writing much.  It's all been so distracting--just life--taking care of everyone, including myself.  I'd like to find a way to write about my parents in a manner that is respectful, but real.

Dementia is an ugly disease.

But there are still beautiful moments.

They had a Christmas party at my parents' facility last month, with music and snacks and decorations. It was overwhelming for my dad and he was having a hard time when Mike and I arrived.

He kept asking:  "Can you get me out of here?"

Sometimes it's so damn heartbreaking I don't know if I can take it anymore.

It's strange because he often reacts to me as if I were a member of the staff instead of his daughter.  I tried to hold his hand and he jerked it away, mumbling and angry.  It was so HARD.

My dad was a fine artist once.  He painted landscapes and seascapes, the occasional still life.  Dementia takes away your visual-spatial skills, as well as your short-term memory.  He can no longer paint, but he loves looking at his old paintings.

Mike actually went to his room during the party and brought back a painting for my dad to look at and it's amazing the difference it made in his mood and demeanor.  "Well would you look at that?" he said, in a calmer, happier tone than we heard in weeks.  "I thought they had all been lost."

He even found his own signature at the bottom.

Mike hung it up in his room and he sat at the foot of his bed and stared at it.

"That's really something." he said.


Dad also liked taking pictures with my phone!
Once Mike got him cheered up by looking at his old artwork we got him to have some treats and take a photo with us.  Getting him to smile is no easy task.  This is one of my favorite moments from the holiday season.


I am learning to take things as they come.  These are the lessons learned from a life with chronic / progressive illness.  In some ways, caring for others has taught me to slow down and appreciate things: a smile, a laugh, a nice memory.  I am so grateful for it.  Even the worst days have worthwhile moments.