A memoir of my father succumbing to dementia
| Life continues several years after my father’s diagnosis, and, while we all try not to become too grand in our future plans, we accomplish our own goals with enthusiasm unknown before. The adage, “Carpe diem” is constantly adhered to in my family.
I shall start my final year of school in a month; Mom is taking greater liberty to have some fun; Sam has received a promotion, taken some classes and become a part-time mother to her boyfriend’s two children as well as a full-time one for her own son; Dad takes pleasure in his horses and looks forward to making some home improvements; and William begins his final year of high school while looking forward to attending seminar and what I’m sure will be a promising preaching career. The family is planning to take a trip to Montana for my graduation next spring and I plan some time at home next summer for William’s graduation and helping with some home improvements while I’m there.
I know that each of us have our own fears and plans for the present and future, but, as I cannot read the minds of others, I will only venture to divulge my own. I don’t know what will happen to my father because of this disease, although I’ve read numerous books on the matter, nor do I know how quickly they will take place so I attempt to do all I can to involve Dad in my life and share my observances with him. He has never been much of a talker on the phone so e-mail has been our mode; however, the things we discuss are trivial. He tells me about his horses or complains about my siblings and I tell him about the movies I’ve seen, books I’ve read or what writing project I’m working on. There is so much more I long to tell him, but haven’t yet found the words.
When I was younger and living at home, he made a wedding dress for the sister of his sister-in-law and I would ask questions as he measured and cut and sewed. We began to form a plan for when I would get married. He said, “When you marry, I’ll make any dress you want, but it will take time.” He would then tell me about sewing lace and what he thought would look good on me. Since then I’ve cherished the idea that I’d have an old-fashioned wedding with a hand-made dress and a talented father to give me away and have him drag me around the dance floor like he did when I was a little girl dancing on his shoes.
I’ve held on to this dream even though I’m not any closer to marriage than I was ten years ago as I watched him make that white gown. I have no intention of going on a head-hunt for the man of my dreams, though I am keeping a lookout, but this memory grows bittersweet as time goes by. If I never marry, this dream will simply remain a grand scheme he and I concocted together. However, if I do after he is unable to sew or dance or is still alive, then it will be a bittersweet day.
When he finished that wedding dress, after several stressful nights, very close to the wedding date he told me with a chuckle, “If you get engaged, you have to give me a solid year of living here to make your dress.” I laughed and said, “It’s just like you to want to monopolize my time when I fall in love. We both laughed until our sides ached.
I devise a daily plan to keep me pushing forward in spite of the impending doom I sometimes feel as this disease takes my father away from, but if you’re reading this and have never heard of my name before then one of my most desperate wishes has come true. The greatest hope of my family for me is to see my work published and read by strangers.
Disease and death cast a large shadow, but hoping and planning are the best remedy. If I have learned nothing from this disease except that life is only as happy as you make it and I am only as strong as the people I surround myself with and the faith I hold in my heart then I will be far wiser than before.