Saturday, August 1, 2009

Telling Dad.

The beach bordered the path on one side, sand and beached logs alternated with reeds and mud. On the other side, trees and bracken gave way to gentle slopes of green grass filled with all sorts of birds and waterfowl, going about their business. Ducks quacked and waddled officiously across the concrete path, gossiping to each other. Where the water came close to the path, we could hear it lap gently against the rocks. Crossing bridges built over the edges of the lake and various little streams running into it, we could look over and see the little fish darting through the peat-brown water. Walls of hedge roses bloomed in the spring and summer, and the flat, bready smell of grass dried in the sun filled the nose.
I chose this walk and this path specifically when it became time to talk to Dad about our concerns for him and to tell him that he would be moving to an Assisted Living Facility. Regardless of age, assuming the mantle of parenthood over a parent is both difficult and impossible to prepare for. Conveying to a parent the imminent reality of a move to a facility presents an even worse challenge. I wanted to discuss the situation in a place where Dad had been happy and calm.
Dad’s very first words were, “Why don’t you just shoot me so I’m not such a burden. I’d rather be dead than go to a place like that!” Then he began the circular reasoning at which he had become so adept. “Why do you think I need to go there? You think I have this thing, this disease?”
I couldn’t back down now, although my heart quailed. “Yes, Dad, you have Alzheimer’s.”

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