Over the last few years, I’ve shared my Dad’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and bits and pieces of our journey. From all the emails and comments I’ve received, (and thank you…you don’t know how much all your support and sharing has meant to me) I know there are many of you in similar situations. So, as difficult as this is to share, if I can connect with even one of you, it will be well worth my tears as I write this.
I’ll start with the long and agonizing journey my Dad went through. His forgetfulness and confusion. His changing personality. His constant need for supervision. The bouts of anger and aggression. His lack of mobility. And in the final stages, the inability to swallow food or even take a sip of water. The Alzheimer’s stripped him of his memories and awareness, yet left him with all his feelings. A cruel disease.
Alzheimer’s also includes the family on its devastating ride.
At it’s worst, along with feeling frustrated and angry, helpless and guilty, I remember wishing my Dad’s suffering to be over. There were times I would leave the Long Term Care Home and feel SO angry that he was ill and his personality was changing. I had some thoughts cross my mind that I NEVER would have imagined I would ever think. Now I realize, all the negative feelings and thoughts were my minds way of trying to cope with my breaking heart. The heartbreak and sorrow of watching my Dad battle this disease felt unbearable.
I can’t tell you how many tears my sister and me have shed over the last 3-4 years — and especially in the last few weeks as we saw the end approaching while Dad still tirelessly hung on. He was tough. He was stubborn. And even in this horrible illness, he was going to leave us HIS way.
My Dad died at 7:30 p.m. on September 25/2018. He died with Andrea and me on either side of him holding each hand, peacefully.
If there’s a silver lining to this disease, it’s all the love and kindness that surrounded us on our journey.
The tireless hours my sister put into caring for Dad and making sure the care he was getting was exceptional. The staff at the Long Term Care Home that treated us like family while Andrea and I were there for 3 full days and nights while Dad took his last breaths. They kindly prepared us for what was to come. They brought us hot tea, warm meals, and recliners plus blankets to nap on. They also shared stories of Dad dancing with the staff, eating ice cream, causing a ruckus and joking around while he was still somewhat able.
I also feel incredibly grateful to have had the chance to say all the things I needed to say to my Dad before he passed. All the I love yous, thank yous and goodbyes were a blessing. And even though he couldn’t open his eyes, I was assured hearing is the very last thing to go — so I hope and pray he heard me.
The best tribute I can leave for my Dad is to live a good life that includes all the positive traits he taught me by example.
I want to remember him as he was before Alzheimer’s. The Dad who showed me unconditional love and was ALWAYS there for me. The Dad who ‘ticko-tickoed’ my back as a little girl, taught me how to drive as a teenager, and helped me with anything and everything as an adult.
I can’t tell you how many times he was drop dead tired from working overtime, yet he still helped me fix my first car or repair something in my very first condo. After all, he was the ultimate handyman. Plumbing, gardening, electrical, sewing, mechanics, cooking, welding, woodworking, and yes, even furniture repair, upholstering and refinishing — there wasn’t much the man couldn’t do — and for his family, there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do.
It’s taken me a long time to write this post because every time I sat down to write, I couldn’t see through my tears. Grieving a loved one is never easy. And he wasn’t just my Dad, he was my friend — and the first man I ever loved.
To honor him, I’m going to dry my tears and be strong. And I’m going to remember all the good times… because I know that’s exactly what he would want.