Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Comparing Pictures.

There are two pictures hanging on the wall next to the chair where Dad now spends most of his time. The pictures are very similar, both are of my Dad on his birthday, with my sister and I seated on either side of him. The bottom picture was taken when I was about seven or eight and my sister was nine or ten. I have pony tails and bangs and my Father looks young and happy, with a homemade cake on the table in front of him. The top picture was taken years later, when I was seventeen and my sister was nineteen and at college. We look older, my hair is shorter and my face longer, my sister more sophisticated in her appearance. My Father, however, looks almost the same, another homemade cake in front of him, just with more candles.

I visited Dad today to see how he was and to drop off the zucchini bread I made for him. His caregiver pointed me toward his room, indicating that he was snoozing in his chair. When I asked the caregiver how Dad had been, he said that everything was fine, my Dad was eating well and such, but that he was much more wobbly on his feet; moving very uncertainly, and even seeming to prefer sitting down, which is so unlike the Father I knew. I walked back to his room and quietly sat down next to him, as I didn't want to wake him up.

As I sat there, my eyes were drawn to the pictures, which I'm so familiar with, having seen them in our house forever. I compared my sister's two faces, and my two faces, enjoying how young and happy we looked. As I look at Dad in the pictures, however, I can't help but look at this actual face, almost right next to the two photos. In a way, he doesn't really look that much different; his hair is still thick and wavy, although gray, and I've noticed before how his skin is fairly smooth and unlined, a result, I sometimes think, of the lack of worldly stress for the last ten years! And then he woke up, and I couldn't help but see that there were many, many differences.

His face was almost expressionless, eyes dull, cheeks and mouth a little slack. He has a flat affect, in the jargon of dementia. His hair is rumpled and too long, although his face is as clean shaven as always. He twitches periodically now, which looks uncomfortable, and reaches up to scratch his head fairly often. Birthdays no longer matter. As he turned to look at me, his expression didn't really change, although his eyes sharpened a little as he registered the presence of someone else. I smiled and spoke to him and told him I had brought him some zucchini bread, and to my surprise, he repeated the word, zucchini, as if he remembered what that might be or taste like. He smiled a little at the same time.

I spoke to him for a bit and then he dozed off again and I was left with my sadness that my smart, super healthy and active, mechanically capable Father - in the pictures, so happy to have his girls around him, another birthday celebrated - is here quiet, no longer wanting to walk, content to sleep for hours unmoving.

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