During these past years, Dad’s memory shifted, faded and re-formed like designs of a kaleidoscope, and many different time periods came to view, often mistaken as the present. He had moments where he wanted to call his mom and dad to take him home. He had moments when he thought he was my son Brad’s age. However, never, throughout all this time, did he mention my mom. It was as if that time frame was missing from the sequence of his life. Consequently, when I called him a few days ago and he told me he was going to have Milly (my mom) come and pick him up, I was rather surprised.
Dad and I had one of the longest phone conversations we have had in some time, nearly twenty minutes. I explained Mom passed away fifteen years ago, and he was shocked to hear the news, as if it had happened yesterday.
In 1992, Mom and Dad had gone to Las Vegas to try an alternative health clinic for her congenital heart disease and emphysema. My dad told me he was frustrated because my mom quit eating, and nutrition played a big part in the healing remedies at this clinic. Dad decided they may as well go home. So he and mom started their drive back from Las Vegas to Alabama. Mom was sleeping in the back seat, and when dad made a stop, he called her name. She never responded because she had passed away during the drive.
Dad asked me how she passed away, so I told him the story, just as he had told me. He repeated himself many times, verifying that this was Milly I was talking about and asking what had happened. At one point after repeating the story about Mom passing away, he asked me if I thought she knew. I told him yes, that I was sure she did. Then it dawned on him that Mom wasn’t going to be able to come pick him up at the nursing home. He was back to searching for a solution to the problem that had brought her to mind. I suggested that perhaps Brad could pay him a visit. He liked that idea.
A few days later when I called, the nurse warned me that Dad was in a bad mood. When I said, “Hi Dad,” he responded with “Where the hell are you? You were supposed to come and pick us up!” As I started to answer, my portable phone died. When I called back, I was told the line to the Alzheimer’s unit was busy. I could only imagine my dad on the other end of the phone, giving me a piece of his mind about not picking him up. I was in California. He was in Alabama. Needless to say, picking him up wasn’t on my schedule. But I guess sometimes, you’re the last one to know about the plans.
it must have been shocking for you for him to mention your mom after all this time. though i will say, you seem to have a special connection to him despite this disease that enables you to communicate to him on a much deeper level then others i’ve read about. having no experience with this disease i am only speaking from what i have read written by others on the topic of their experiences. have you considered writing a book about this? i think it would be wonderful.
My father was too far gone for us to tell him when my mom died a few years ago. The saddest part for me was that they never really got to say goodbye.
I wish that things could have been different but it was what it was.
One bit of advice would be to believe in the ‘little white lies’ that you inevitably will have to tell to keep the peace. Sometimes I feel you’re better off in the long run to let them believe what they want to believe.
Everyone is different though and I don’t know your dad as you do.
This post did make me sad because I understand it all too well.
As always, you’re in my prayers.
I wanted to let you know that my Dad passed away on January 10, approximately 2 months ago. He had periods of dementia over the last several years. No one really knew that he suffering from Alzheimer’s, until back in late November 2006, when Mom took him to the emergency room for unrelated issues. It was at that time my Dad was diagnosed with pneumonia. Once he was admitted to the hospital, he was diagnosed with stage 2 Alzheimer’s. They say the cause of death was Alzheimers, but he also had some congestive heart failure.
My Mom is coping one day at a time since Dad made his transition in January. They would have been married 51 years January 28 and he would have been 94 on February 3. Our family has started a new and different journey since my Dad passed away. God bless you in your process with you Dad. One day at a time.
Sarah — It means a lot to me what you’re saying. Yes, I do still have quite a connection with my dad, in spite of all the twists and turns we seem to take. Writing a book? What an interesting idea. No, I really hadn’t considered it, but it is definitely something to think about. Thanks for the suggestion.
Michael–That really is the sad part, not getting to say goodbye. All the things you would say, if only you knew the time was near. I’m sorry your father was too far gone when your mother passed.
Yes, I understand the little white lies. I often do go that route with my dad, especially when I know certain ideas are out of his grasp. There also are times when I think he’s much more lucid, and in those moments is searching for some truth. It’s tricky finding the right balance, and there certainly is no canned response. You just have to take it as it comes and figure out the best way to approach whatever is at hand. Thank you for your kind thoughts and for keeping me in your prayers.
Secondchancetolive — Close to ninety-four years is a long time. I appreciate your sharing what happened to your father with me. One day at a time makes sense. I wish the best for you and your mother. My heart goes out to you. God bless.