Conversations with Dad

Last Friday, my sister and I visited Dad in his Alzheimer’s facility. It’s a cheerful place, considering it’s the last stop for dementia patients, and I admire how kind the staff is to my dad and the others.

But it’s still a catch in the heart to see him there. My dad was a man who was always in motion, rarely still. Wendy and I found him in his room, just staring out the window.

And it is really hard to see the different stages of the other patients. Dad’s room is in a suite and his “roommate” is a man named Eugene. I’ve never seen Eugene other than in bed, tucked into a fetal position.

Other bodies are kind of draped in chairs around the living area. It’s actually kind of…surreal. This facility is in Palo Alto, California. Many of these patients were Stanford educated, highly professional individuals who had full, rich lives. Nobody ever dreamed the end of their life would be like this.

My sister and I took Dad outside to the garden. Wouldn’t you know that Dad keyed right in on the gate to get out? Like a dog with a bone. He kept pointing to it, indicating with his limited vocabulary that we could flee! Escape while we could!

It warmed my heart to see a glimpse of the old Dad…planning a breakout.

The next evening, we went to some friends’ home for a potluck dinner. My assignment was to bring a salad, I thought, so I had stopped at the store early that day to get the ingredients.

However, I was mistaken.

My assignment was dessert.

Those are the kinds of slip-ups that strike terror in one’s heart when a parent has Alzheimer’s. EEEKKK! The first sign.

About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.

Comments

  1. Jeannette Beeger says:

    I sooo identify. My dad had Alzheimer's, and now my mom has gotten the official diagnosis as well and seems to be deteriorating quickly. A few weeks ago I got into my car in a parking lot….and discovered I had gotten in the BACK seat. ??!! Couldn't even tell anyone about it, much less laugh, for several days. Some day I need to get the name of the facility in Palo Alto from you, if you can share it…

  2. Suzanne says:

    Oh Jeannette…your mom and your dad? Heartbreaking. And I'm sure you got in the back seat because you were thoroughly distracted…bet it was a Freudian slip. Like you were wishing you could reverse the clock and be a kid again…with your parents "in the driver's seat." Will e-mail you privately with the facility info.

  3. Mocha with Linda says:

    Oh, you know I so relate to this!

    I always love to look around facilities like that and think about the patients and their earlier lives – being kids, laughing, baking cookies, running companies, falling in love.

    Did I ever tell you about when my SIL took a youth group to carol at a facility? While they were waiting for them to unlock the door for them to leave the unit, she noticed a lady (a patient) standing very still in the midst of the students, and she was whispering "I'm gonna get to go, I'm gonna get to go" over and over! My SIL caught the nurse's eye and nodded toward the woman and as the nurse led her away the patient gave my SIL a dirty look and said "DAMN!"

  4. Suzanne says:

    FUNNY, Linda! You have to find the humor in Alzheimer's. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Pam says:

    I can identify with these comments as well. My mother went to a nursing home about 2 years ago, in advanced stages of Alzheimer's. My dad lived alone for several months, then moved in with my sister for a few months, and then moved to the nursing home in the same room with my mom; I would say he's in an intermediate stage of Alzheimer's. We've definitely learned to depend on God's strength to deal with this awful disease. And yes, it can be very scary when I find myself having some of those "mental lapses."