It’s going to happen. It’s inevitable. Just like taxes, not a single one of us is immune to the finality that is death.
We are never ready. Sure, you probably have an idea of what would be the best way to go, but who wants to talk about it. Most, myself included, prefer to stick their proverbial head in the sand regarding this kind of talk.
I have a feeling that if you ask a room full of people, “How would you prefer to die,” you might get one of two or three answers. One may say, “Quickly, I’d like to not know when it’s happening. I don’t want to linger and be a burden.”
While I like that idea, I’ve also practiced the fine art of procrastination for too long. That means there are a lot of to-do lists to complete. And that means I need more time. Who knows how much time I’ll need. If history is any indication, I’ll need at least four weeks before the day of, but only if the day of is still four weeks away.
No matter what though, something we can all agree on is how we feel about the body outliving the mind. Even if you haven’t experienced the toll that dementia takes on a close friend or family member, you know someone who has.
It’s happening to my dad. For the most part, he’s doing exceptionally well. He manages the disease that’s robbing him of his very identity by sticking to a rigid routine.
He gets up at the same time. He wears the same color shirt and shorts (yes, shorts, even in the winter.) He eats the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He writes down his weight, the time of day he takes his meds, and time of day he goes to the bathroom. Even though all of this helps, once in a while, something happens that sends him a little further down the rabbit hole.
Recently, he reached a new milestone with this disease.
After an afternoon visit with dad, my sister Laura called. I could tell she was upset.
“Have you noticed dad doesn’t say our name anymore … he’s forgotten our names,” she
This was a little shocking to hear. I hadn’t noticed. Dad is always happy to see me or any of his six children. “This is my little girl (or boy),” is how he proudly introduces us to other residents and visitors at his assisted living facility. Now, it makes sense. He can’t be wrong with gender-specific names like “my little girl (or boy)” … brilliant.
Laura is the oldest daughter, and she notices everything. She also worries about everything. She’s an Olympian at worrying about things you can do nothing about. This trait has been proudly passed down for generations in my family. Laura just has the most concentrated dose.
It was upsetting at first, but then, it hit me. Dad not knowing our individual names doesn’t necessarily mean he’s traveled even further down the rabbit hole. He’s always had a hard time with our names.
There are six of us for crying out loud. In junior high and high school, he would call out all six names and sometimes our pets’ names before finally landing on the kid’s name he was addressing. While he may have forgotten our names, he hasn’t forgotten we’re his kids. That’s more important.
This little tidbit seemed to help all six of us. The time will come soon enough when he doesn’t recognize us, but now is not that time.
Last Sunday, Laura called after another visit with dad. Dad asked what her name was.
She asked him, “What do you think my name is, dad? There’s no wrong answer.”
For a few seconds he studied her face, then proudly said, “Becky, no Christy, no Becky … you’re Becky.”
She smiled, gave him a hug and kiss, then got in her car, drove away, and cried.
I felt so bad. For dad and my sister. Dad would be fine ... but Laura? She’s taking this hard. So, I said the only thing one can say in an emotional moment like this.
“I’m so sorry,” I said. “It’s never easy to hear that dad has a favorite. It’s me since he said my name three times and Christy’s only once.”
And just like it always does, laughter made it better and a little easier to keep traveling this road of unknowns with dad. He wants all six of us there with him … not just his favorite (Becky).
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