Since he was an hour and a half away, most of my knowledge of his actions were second-hand. Even though Dad called me a lot on the phone, he was abstracted from my immediate reality. Because of this, in many ways, I thought of him still as my dear old Dad, just as he always had been. Ready to offer advice. Someone I didn't want to let down. Someone who would always tell me the right thing to do, even if I didn't realize it at the time...
Dad came to live with us a couple of weeks after Liam was born. Probably not the best time for turnover, but practical since I was home on maternity leave. It would give me a lot of time to orient Dad to his new surroundings.
I had first-hand experience with Alzheimer's so I thought I was prepared for this move.
But I was not.
I didn't even know how to talk to him. I didn't really understand how advanced he already was. I was frustrated with him because he was so uncooperative and I was just trying to help him. He was very angry that I would not let him go home.
Why won't you cooperate with me?
I tried to make Dad maintain a journal. My thoughts were if he could see his notes in his own hand-writing, perhaps he would trust me. If he could see a record in his writing that he couldn't remember writing, then he would just have to believe me when I told him that his memory was impaired.
One time I took a peek in his journal and found a note he wrote all on his own. There was a note scrawled in it that read, "Alex is mean to her dear old Dad."
I was actually impressed he wrote this on his own. But I felt sad that Dad just thought I was mean and mad at him. I just wanted him to understand what I was doing was for his own benefit.
Sigh. Another would I, could I go back and give it a different try.
Unfortunately, the journaling didn't last long. I realized quickly that Dad had trouble forming letters; he could no longer remember how to draw many letters of the alphabet. And this from a man who has his Masters in Library Science.
As I watched him decline, I longed for the old habits he had that used to irritate me. Looking for random things. It used to make me insane. He'd carry around this mini-cooler of odds and ends - his shake flashlights; loose change; his wallet; a handkerchief. He would lose it, search for it, find it, and lose it again, and again.
But the searching kept him in motion. Fruitless? Perhaps for his intended purpose. But at least he was still active, self-motivated, moving around the house instead of sleeping on the couch.
I wanted him to take me to the diner, bring him home, and then ask me if I wanted to go to the diner again.
I missed his complaining and general grousing. I would rather have him yell at me about being controlling over him being unable to form a sentence with words that made sense.
I just didn't realize at all how sick he already was. In a way, it was like losing a parent without even realizing it until several months later.
* * *
On Saturday, I picked up a new prescription for Dad at Neko-Dederick's. The medication - the Exelon patch - has only been available on the market in patch form for several months now. It is used to treat both Parkinson's as well as Alzheimer's. The problem with the pill form of Exelon is that it causes stomach problems in many patients. Dad couldn't even digest Aricept; he wasn't going to do well with Exelon.
He's been on it now only for 3 days. Dana and I were on the front porch watering the plants tonight, talking about all of the slight changes we were already noticing in his behavior. His shaking had stopped. He was allowing me out of his eyesight. He seemed relaxed and made silly 'Bob' jokes.
Dad overheard us on the porch. He looked concerned. "What do you mean? Is there something wrong with me?" he asked. Dana explained to him about his new medication and how well he was doing on it. Dad looked confused when Dana asked him if he could remember living here for the past year and a half? He didn't say much and I didn't realize he was upset. I thought he had just wandered off, his attention drawn to something else.
I walked towards the kitchen, down the hall from the front porch. Dad was standing alone in the kitchen, staring at me as I walked towards him. He was hard to read; his face was like stone. Expressionless. I leaned in to give him a hug.
"Do you love me?" he whispered quietly.
"Of course I love you!" I said.
There was a pause.
"...Was it worth it?" he asked.
"Yes, Dad, it is worth it," I said.