Thursday, May 20, 2010

A lot of emotions: the face of Alzheimer's

My father's mental faculties are deteriorating each day. I was charged with the task of babysitting him on Monday because my mom had a minor same-day surgery. She is his primary caregiver; my dad has Alzheimer's.

Spending one-on-one time with my dad was revealing, humorous and sad all at once.

My father was the walking definition of stoic when I was growing up. A staunch Marine, he never cried, spoke little and smoked cigarettes a lot. He was strong in so many ways, with a simple love for God, country and fishing.

Watching your parents age and become elderly is a natural process. Roles shift. Children become parental figures, caring for their parents as they age.

But watching your once stoic, strong father transform into a small, elderly man who behaves like a five year old at times is confusing. He cries a lot, sometimes out of frustration for things he can't remember, sometimes because a sliver of him knows he is slipping...

Sometimes I cry for him.

He repeats things a lot, in an effort to remember. He laughs often. Sometimes he says things, out of the blue, that seem so poignant, so right on, but then I realize he doesn't remember what he said or what it means. It's a nonsensical world where things are hysterical or confusing or tragic. There's a lot of emotions.

There seems to be an overwhelming amount of emotion in my life right now. So much to swallow. I literally want to sleep through it. And sometimes I do.

As I dropped my mother off Monday after her surgery, she said as she stepped out of my truck,

"Now you watch, he'll have made some kind of mischief just because he was home alone," referring to my dad, who I had dropped off earlier in the day.

Sure enough, she walked into the house to find coffee grounds all over the kitchen: on the floor, the cupboards, the counter tops, everywhere. What happened remains a mystery.

I hugged him as I left him today, his body now thin and frail. He started weeping again.

"You know I've always stood behind you, Shan," he said. I'm not sure what he was referring to. But it doesn't matter, because it's true: he's always stood behind me. And loved me, even when I'm difficult to love.


  1. Such a poignant post, Shannon. My mother had Alzheimer's, too. Most of the time, I LOVED being with her. She was truly in the moment. But I ached for her when the frustration set in, as you so aptly describe. And what an amazing comment he said to you. He's there for you, even if he's not "there" in the same way all the time. My heart accompanies yours as you travel this rough patch.

  2. What a breath-taking emotive post, Shannon. I am
    in tears with your eloquence. My heart aches for you. I am blessed to have an eighty-one year old dad and an eight-two year old stepmom who are relatively healthy. Yet everyday I realize that I won't have them forever and I need to slow down the insanity of my life and make more time for them while I have them. Hang in there. You seem to have a good grip on the situation.


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