I’m sitting here on the front porch, and I’m sobbing. I’m finally grieving. I’ve finally reached the place where my heart knows what my brain has known for years. I am now dreaming of the day we meet again in Heaven, Dad, and you look at me and I will see in your eyes that you know it’s me: your daughter. I won’t be “the woman who comes by every day to our house” as you described me to Mom the other day.
And this sucks. This early onset Alzheimer’s has stolen a brilliant mind. It’s stolen my mother’s dear husband. It’s taken my dad—the only living grandfather my three babies will ever know. On a few rare days when you seem to know who I am, I’m so grateful for every fleeting moment because then I blink, and the familiarity in your eyes is gone again.
I’m microwaving a frozen snack you’ve picked out of the freezer (those meds sure make you hungry). You’ve brought it over to the microwave, unwrapped the plastic, and put the snack in the microwavable paper sleeve. And then you pause, turning to me as I sit at my computer at the kitchen counter.
“How . . . ?” You ask me. And I know what you mean.
“Would you like me to heat this up for you?” I walk over and ask.
“Sure,” I reply. I enter two minutes on the microwave and hit the start button.
Ever grateful, you turn to me and say, “How? What’s the hot? 200?”
And I know what you mean. Anyone else would shrug and misunderstand you.
“Two minutes to heat the snack, Dad.”
And you nod in reply.
I sit back down to watch you as you stare at the microwave, watching the numbers fall. You turn your head to the side and ask, “200? How? 200 degrees?”
“No, Dad, two minutes,” I reply, “but I’m not sure how hot the microwave is though!” We chuckle together. It’s quiet as we listen to the hum of the microwave.
“How much again? 2? 200?”
“No, Dad, 2 minutes till it’s hot!”
We chuckle again.
“5, 4, 3, 2, 1…” You say the numbers aloud until the timer beeps and your snack is ready.
The man who built the kitchen we are in, who installed the microwave we used, shuffles out of the room, nibbling on his snack, lost.
I dread the future. I dread the day you lose control of your body, when you completely slip away from us.
But those future days are the days I know to expect, and I know to dread them already because I know they are coming. I’ve had days when the unexpected happens and somehow they’re worse than the things I know will come to pass.
Keeping you physically safe breaks my heart. I know you yearn for your independence, but you cannot comprehend that independence. Your brain does not allow you to. And it eats me up inside knowing you wish to be on your own, and we—your family—can’t allow it for your safety.
I remember the time I tracked your phone (a huge thank you to those tracking apps on phones for the peace of mind), and you were on the opposite end of town. The storm clouds approached, so I raced to beat the rain and found you in someone’s fenced front yard. You did that joking, nervous laugh while your hands shook as I hopped out of the car and pretended I just happened to see you while driving by.
You were disoriented and confused, and I think you knew that deep, deep down inside somewhere because you laughed a little louder as I mentioned the rain coming.
“Can I give you a hand with your bike, Dad? Drive you home?”
We load up the bike and you tell me how you couldn’t find Will, he wasn’t at home. I gently remind you that Will’s house is on the opposite side of town. You shake your head and let me know—in a very confident tone that contrasts your shaking hands— that it is I who must be mistaken.
I don’t argue, I don’t want to make you upset or more frazzled than you already are. I leave it alone, it won’t change anything anyways.
And it breaks my heart just a fraction more.
The days just slip by, each one taking a little piece of you, and there’s less and less of you left for today.
To say it has been hard on Mom would be an understatement. We took you for a week to stay with us so Mom could have a break. The week was cut in half, and we drove you home after three nights as you would wander the hall every night, mournfully asking, “Where’s my wife?” and could not understand the answer.
And the little jogs you do. The father who never played sports, never worked out . . . you were the builder father, the brilliant, I can fix anything guy. Now you’re off again on a little run, and when you return from your jog, you are sure to tell me (for the millionth time, but as excitedly as though it’s the first time you’re telling me) how you’ve ran for years and how much you love the exercise.
I’ll always wonder if part of you knows—deep, deep down somewhere—what’s going on and you’re unconsciously trying to outrun the inevitable. Dad, where are you going? I wish I could go with you. I wish I could understand what’s happening to you.
I’m grateful beyond words that you don’t understand what’s happening to you. It’s a small mercy in a big sea of unfairness.
I’m sitting here on the front porch, and I’m sobbing. Life is so unfair. So, so unfair. A brilliant, loving husband and father and grandfather is gone. You’re 60 years old and have struggled for a decade with slowly losing your mind. This is so unfair! This is heartbreaking!
Why you, Dad? Inside, I’m a swirling storm of anger and resignation for this illness. Why you, Dad!?!
Somehow it would be easier if there were someone or something tangible to hang the blame on. I swallow the daily frustrations and sadness, and I hang on to the future hope of seeing you again in Heaven someday with your mind restored. I miss our talks. I miss our debates. I miss our history discussions. I miss our silly conversations. I miss listening to the radio with you.
Your body is here, but you—the wonderful, smart mind that makes you, you—are not.
I miss you, Dad.
-Your #1 kiddo