Dad has dementia. At long last there is a working diagnosis of probably Lewey Bodies Disease. My own life has been taken up with arranging for Dad to get into a living situation that is acceptable to him, offers opportunities for enrichment and meaning, and keeps him relatively safe. As I bear witness to the faltering of his memories, I find myself at times in a rush to tell him that I do remember.
And yes Dad, I do remember:
...the trips to Philly and Valley Forge and New York City, playing cards with you by the apartment pool, the walks in the woods and the zoo in the Catskills, the parades we went to, the football game we went to, holidays with you, visiting relatives, going to the beach or a lake for a day, bowling, hitting buckets of golf balls, you helping me with spelling, singing during car trips, eating out, you taking my questions seriously and answering them, vacations in D.C., Bermuda, Greenville S.C., Aruba and Curacao, Lake George, Lancaster, living with you, my first car, getting on the honor roll for the first time, making me jello when I got sick, the jokes, the laughter, the love, the tears...You were always there for me, always.
I love you, Dad. I'm sorry that your brain is failing, failing you. And even so, you were able to learn how to turn on and shut down our computer, mostly now you remember where the icon is for your solitaire card games. And you remembered how to get on the Internet at home and ordered your own plane ticket.
I cried on the inside when I had to report you for being an unsafe driver, as I watched the ending of your marriage, when I discovered that you also don't have the home phone number nor the address of my sibling.
And I celebrate your victories. Your willingness to ask for help, your success at navigating a plane change in a busy airport during your trip, your sense of humor and sociability at a luncheon.
I don't know how much longer you have here on earth, what condition I will find you in from visit to visit, day to day, moment to moment. I don't know how much longer you will still have your words, your smile, your laughter.
And yet, this isn't really about me, Dad. This is about you. As you squeeze every joy you can out of your remaining days, you are the one who is preparing to leave. I am losing one person, a parent. You are losing everyone.
You are a wonderful Dad-- the best. I will always love you, for as long as love will last and then some.