Saturday, October 30, 2010

Book Excerpt

“Does he still remember you?“ This is what people asked, in a consolatory yet avidly curious way, whenever I told them about Dad’s Alzheimer’s.
“Well, he doesn’t always remember my name - at least he doesn’t say it very often - but he always seems to know that he knows me.“ I always responded. For many, this one thing, this inevitable occurrence of forgetting, represented the disease. It was the poster moment, if you will, for the horror of Alzheimer’s. The single thing most people both understood and feared.
Interestingly, to me it was the least important aspect of the disease. I already knew what it was like not to be known by Dad, since he wasn’t really present through much of my life. But even when Dad didn’t know me, I’d still be a part of him. What was harder was giving up all hope of ever having the father I really needed and wanted.

It continued to surprise me how much I actually enjoyed spending time with Dad, although I realized anew that he was a stranger to me, and I a stranger to him. There was something restful about being with him. He accepted me pretty much as I was, we could talk or not depending on how we felt. The unfortunate side effect of this was that sometimes I felt like I got very little intelligent conversation and wasn’t using my brain, a sensation most likely familiar to new mothers. I felt it come instinctively to me, how to deal with him, how to speak to him, which surprised me. Being his caretaker proved just as boring and tedious and sometimes horrifying as I expected, but I found hidden benefits as well. I just took him as he was, and I had decided before I even moved in with Dad that I would never correct him or try to orient him in my reality."

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