I was not sure I wanted to write this. But in the end, I decided the only way to get some closure and begin to move on was to get it out there so at least I would stop contemplating whether or not I wanted to go public with some private issues that have occupied the majority of my time the past couple of years.
In the summer of 1997, after my Dad had triple-bypass surgery, I moved “back home” for what was supposed to be 6 months or so while he recovered from the procedure. Well, I immediately got a job 20 minutes away and since the food was pretty good, the rent reasonable and the company pleasant, I ended up staying. For the next 11 years or so, I lived in my own little world, able to do whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it. Then things changed. In the summer of 2008, my Dad’s Primary Care Physician somewhat innocuously asked him if he was having difficulty with his memory. My Dad, ever-honest, innocently replied back that yes, he has noticed a bit of difficulty remembering things. Now let us fast forward to two weeks ago. My sister, brother and I moved our Dad into an assisted living facility specializing in caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Maybe I am wrong and this was just my perception, but when one hears “Alzheimer’s disease”, one thinks “forgets names” and “soils oneself.” Well, I learned the past two years that there is a whole lot more in between these two extremes. And while fortunately my Dad is still a whole lot closer to the former than the latter, the symptoms he has require him to be under professional care.
The loss of short term memory does a whole lot more than cause the afflicted to forget some names or where they put the cable remote. It robs them of the very trait that we were taught in religious school distinguishing humans from other species. It robs them of their ability to reason. And worse than that, it blinds them to what is happening. People with Alzheimer’s disease are unable to recognize what is happening, so they are not simply unwilling, but consciously unable to believe it. Their brains are no longer able to process information like before, with the fact they even have Alzheimer’s disease front and center. The loss of short term memory alters the person’s baseline. They do not recall how things used to be, what they used to be able to do. So they are basically living in the moment and therefore think what is presently happening is normal. And if they are processing everything as being normal, they do not believe it when people tell them they have Alzheimer’s as their thought processes seem like they always have. Alzheimer’s is therefore the Perfect Disease. The person is afflicted, but mentally unable to recognize its existence.
So not only does the person giving care to an Alzheimer’s patient have to deal with the safety and well being of the afflicted person, they have to deal with the fact they are not in need of said care. Factor in that in my case, the care was coming from a 47-year old single son, who still lives like he did when he was 17, starting his day a Mountain Dew, not making his bed and leaving his clothes all over the floor, and the tension is compounded.
At this point, I would like to stress that I am not sharing this as a means to fish for attention or sympathy. By caring for my Dad the past two years, I did nothing different than any reasonable person would do for a loved one. I am by no means special in that regard. But a repercussion of what I went through was I have been living in a shell the past couple of years. I have been reticent to have the normal kind of communication with friends as I knew eventually they would want to know how I am doing. And I was hesitant to really open up, for fear I was appearing to be fishing for sympathy. Eventually, many of my friends sensed I was uncomfortable and we talked less and less. So if nothing else, I am hoping by writing this I am able to put all this aside and have those things get back to normal.
You know, I am actually feeling a little better already, so I think I am just going to skip to the end, the part where I thank some people for their patience, kindness, understanding and most importantly, friendship during these trying times.
Lawr, words cannot express how much your being there has meant to me, so I am not even going to try. I love ya man.
To my partners Gary, Rob, Brian, Perry, Jason, Chris and Jesse, you have all been incredibly patient, understanding and great friends. Thanks guys. You too JP, and I truly wish things turned out differently, but I am grateful for all you did.
To Keri G – YTB.
Thanks to my sister and brother and their incredible children for trusting me.
And thanks to you, the loyal Mastersball reader for allowing me to open up a little and now hopefully pay you back by leading the site to bigger and better things.