Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Watching My Father Turn into a Zombie

I'm sorry if this rambles but I feel compelled to save my thoughts.

My father, my first hero, and my role model, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's last year.  He probably had it long before it actually got named but it is very evident now.  He is a very proud man and extremely intelligent.  It was his intellect that managed to fill in the gaps in his memory and allowed him to function without too much trouble.  I have kept him at home, his wish, for as long as possible and perhaps a little longer than it should have been.  Now things have progressed to the point where I must take this noble man and see him put in a care home, his personal nightmare and now mine too.

Let me tell you a little about him.  Born just before World War 2, he grew up in northern Ontario as a plumber's son.  His love of the outdoors was passed on to me as was his love of geology, travel, and golf.  He worked his whole career in the mining industry, and retired from being a long term planning  engineer at one of the world's largest open pit mines.  He would suffer no fools lightly but was generally a very sociable fellow.

My dad, son, and I before a hike.

I suppose there is a time in everyone's life when they discover that their parents are not super human and in fact fragile.  It was ten years ago when I realized how vulnerable my dad had become.  My mom had gotten really sick and they were forced to move from the home and hometown, in which I was raised, to a city where there was better healthcare available.  As she got sicker, something in him broke.  I went from seeing my father as a rock to me being the person he turned to for support and reassurance.

I can't say that I have been the greatest son.  I wish I could have spent more time with my parents.  With a family of my own, my own health concerns,and a demanding job, I have had to prioritize.  My parents were too stubborn to allow us to move them closer and so my infrequent visits have caused all too suffer.  My distant relatives have labelled me as a negligent son and so would my wife and kids have an entirely different, but equally unpleasant, label for me if I dropped everything to just be a dutiful son full time.  Life is a fine balance.

So as I make plans to see that my dad is taken care of the best way I possibly can.  He doesn't want to be a burden and he never will be, he's my dad.  I get to watch as this horrible disease takes him slowly from me.  Everyday another piece of him is gone and one day all that will be left is his body.  My father is slowly becoming a zombie.  It is pure agony to watch it happen.  He deserved better.  My mind plays games wondering whether he is as terrified as I am or if at this point the Alzheimer's has made him blissfully ignorant.  I have selfishly wished for him to have a heart attack in hopes that it would give us both a release from this ongoing hell.  I really don't know if I have the strength to visit him when there is nothing left.  You would think that knowing others who have gone through similar tragedies in their life would make me feel better and not so alone but it doesn't. It's too personal.  My wife and kids give me strength.

Give the people you love a hug and let them know how much you appreciate them.  I wish I had something more original or uplifting to end this entry on but my tank has run dry.