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.Continue Reading
“Failure to thrive,” was the EMTs’ initial assessment.
It was two days after the collapse, late afternoon, and I was standing in my father’s hospital room, after having taken a five-hour flight from Lima to Orlando, then a two hours’ ride by car to Gainesville. The bright florescent lights shone on the newly polished linoleum floor, some kind of heart monitor beeped in the background. My dad was propped up in bed, his face gaunt, an IV tube stuck in his arm.
His face brightened when he saw me. “Barb….”
“Oh, Dad, god.” I bent down to hug him. He felt bony – much thinner than when I had visited him at Christmas time a month earlier. How could someone change so much in so short a time?
“What happened?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” He blinked his watery blue eyes. “I think I was in my house.”
I walked over to the chart pinned on his wall. My dad was being given intravenous with glucose, vitamins and antibiotics. What were those for?Continue Reading
In January 2011, I had a strange conversation with my father.
My husband and I were living in Peru, our home for the last five years. My father, a healthy 86-year-old widower, was living in his home in Florida. He was all alone except for his poodle, Charlie Brown. Still, he got out regularly – errands, church, weekly meetings of the Masons. I wasn’t too worried about him. Years before I had gotten him one of those Life Alert things, and he wore it around his neck. His neighbors looked in on him. Plus we talked several times a week. This was one of those times.
“Dad, I tried calling you earlier,” I said. “The phone just rang and rang. Where were you?”
“Oh, Barbara. It’s all screwed up…” His voice trailed off.
“Dad, where were you?” I persisted.
“I’m right here,” he said, his voice keening.
“Is everything okay?”
“All they gave me is goddamn crackers.”
“Dad, you’re not sounding okay.”
“Just Townhouse crackers. Shut up!” This to the dog, who was yapping in the background.Continue Reading