Looking back on it, I should have known much earlier – way before his collapse or the discovery of the condom – that my father was not right in the head, that his problem was much more than an imaginary impacted colon. His digestive plumbing worked great, it always had. His mental state – well, that was another matter. He’d always been spacy, had held himself aloof from people, was known for uttering non sequiturs. But I should have known that his mental state was slipping. As recently as December, he’d repeated himself multiple times at Christmas dinner with friends of mine. That should have been a clue. Why hadn’t I thought to get him a household companion? Why hadn’t I seriously entertained the idea of our moving back to help him?
Because he was obstinate and didn’t want help.
Because he was not fond of people.
Because he liked living on his own and had said he didn’t want us to interfere.
Because I found it easier living far away from him, where he couldn’t be cruel to me.
As you can probably tell from the title of this blog, this is an Alzheimer’s story, the story of my father’s descent into the disease, and the strange ride that I and my family took along with him. And like many Alzheimer’s tales, it begins not with the onset of the disease, but rather, with the moment the family learns of the diagnosis. My dad, you see, never knew he had Alzheimer’s. Even after the doctors in rehab said he had it, we never told him. But once I knew what he had, I kept trying to figure out when it had started.
What a rabbit hole. You begin questioning countless encounters you’ve had with the loved one.
Alzheimer’s narratives have several common tropes. The crisis/wake-up call. The guilt-ridden attempt to figure out when it started.
If you, dear reader, are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, when was the definitive moment when his or her old life came crashing down? How do you mark the break with normalcy? Can you pinpoint it to a single day – like that when I had the phone call with my father? Or was it a cumulation of bizarre incidents that you kept chalking up to normal old age?
Here’s the link to the previous post in this series: What Was in His Pocket: Real Life Adventure #3.