Friday, April 20, 2012

The Long Distance Long Goodbye

Normally on this blog I try to find something useful or light-hearted to post about. If you've read many of my posts, you know that I'm blessed with a wonderful family, my husband and children whom I love very much. They provide me with plenty of ideas to blog about and make me incredibly happy. But this is a blog about me and my real life, and some parts of life are unavoidably sad.

What you don't know about me yet is that my dad, who to this day still holds his status as one of the smartest people that I've ever met, has Alzheimer's. As I am writing this, he has just returned home to die. He is 74 years old, which in one way means that he had a nice, long life, and in another way means that he was robbed of his golden years.

My father was is a good man. He was a faithful husband and a loving father. He worked hard and made sacrifices so that each of his three children could have a comfortable childhood and attend good colleges. I was the first of us kids to get married, and he cried private tears before he walked me down the aisle. I saw him wiping them away.

When the grandchildren started to arrive, he showed a goofier side of himself than he had when his own kids were young. He relished getting to be the silly grandad. He was content with his life.

About six years ago, after he was officially retired, he was still doing consulting work for his old company. When the work became too difficult, everyone chalked it up to an older person being confused by new technology. The real reason became apparent all too soon. Alzheimer's Disease was ravaging his brain.

Many people would have crumbled under such a diagnosis. Not my dad. He faced everyday with the same calm, bravery that he always had. He signed up for a study at Yale University, in the hopes that doctors could use his suffering for good, to help them help others someday. He gave us, his family, every bit of himself for as long as he could, remaining cheerful and loving even as his inner world was shrinking.

When his nightmares became for him a waking reality, and he could no longer function in the everyday world, he somehow summoned up a moment of clarity to tell my mother that he needed to go into a nursing home. True to the man he had always been, he put the welfare of his loved ones first.

Now he is returning to my mother's house, frailer and sicker. Hospice and an aide will help to care for him. Nobody knows how long he has left. It could be days, or it could be weeks or months.

Their house is a four hour drive from mine. I find myself in the painful position of trying to manage my full life here at home, and wanting to be there for him. I know that I am not alone in living far from my aging parents. I know that he is well cared for. It is just...hard.

I've reconciled myself to the fact that when he does take his last breath, I likely won't be at his side. I may be, but I might just as easily be driving down to see him, or teaching my children, or grocery shopping, or doing laundry. I just don't know.

I cry when my children aren't looking. Sometimes they catch me. They know that Grandad is sick, and my oldest knows how serious it is, but they're young. They don't know.

My faith is of great comfort now. As a Catholic, I believe that at the moment of death his soul will be free of his broken body. He will be at peace, which he has not been for a very long time. I want that for him, and I pray for his quick release from suffering. Yet, I will miss him everyday. I already do.



18 comments:

  1. Hi, Patricia. I wanted to thank you for your comment today. I also wanted to tell you that I just said a prayer for your dad and your family. I lost my dad to cancer when I was 16, and losing your dad is tough...no matter how old you are!

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    1. Thank you, Amanda. I know that I'm lucky to have had my dad to lean on well into my adult years, but losing a parent is something that you're never quite prepared for.

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  2. I'm so sorry for your struggle. I was moved by your story. I wanted to thank you for stopping by The NY Melrose Family and leaving such a sweet comment on my Maple Asian Salmon Salad. I'd love it if you add me to your link parties. I host Whimsy Wednesdays and would love for you to join in. I'm following.

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    1. Jenny, thank you for your kind thoughts, and for following. I would be very happy to join your Whimsy Wednesdays party. It's very nice to meet you!

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  3. Patricia, I am so sorry. I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer's and it was so very difficult. I'm saying a prayer for your family.

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    1. Thank you for your prayers, Delilah. It helps to know that others understand what it is like to lose a loved one to this terrible disease.

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  4. Patricia, I'm so happy that you found my blog. I'm very touched by this post. My life has also been touched by Alzheimers. It's so sad to see someone that you've known and loved all your life change in such a way. I'll keep your father in my thoughts and prayers.

    Glad to have met you as well. I'm your newest follower!

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    1. Melissa, Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers. They really help.

      I'm glad I found your blog too! Thanks for following.

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  5. I'm so sorry. I know how hard It is! A prayer for your family from my family.
    Have a nice weekend!
    Ps Thank you for stopping by my blog and for your sweet comment I am your newest follower.

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    1. Maria, Thank you for your prayers. It helps to know that others care.

      Thank you for following!

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  6. Wow, that is beautiful. I came for a laugh and got so much more!

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  7. I'm so sorry for what you're going through. We're at very close to the same point with my grandmother. Alzheimer's is a horrible disease to watch your loved one go through, and it's one that affects the entire family. You're all in my prayers.

    I'm so glad you stopped by my blog and let me know about yours. I'm now a follower!

    Janelle
    homemadethisandthat.blogspot.com

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    1. Janelle, Thank you for your prayers! I'm sorry that your family is going through the same thing, and you are now in my prayers too.

      Thanks for following. I'm looking forward to exchanging lots of great ideas.

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  8. I am hoping, you can dwell on the good times with your Dad. I can only imagine how hard it is to stand in your place and I wish you strength.

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    1. Thank you, Chaya. My dad was a tower of strength all his life, and I can only try to follow his example. The memories of the good times with hime really do help.

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  9. Pat, Your family will be in my prayers during this very challenging time. Your Dad sounds like a wonderful man and I see He has left you with many memories to cherish. That is a great gift He has given you.
    God Bless You greatly!
    Chirs

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  10. Thank you for your prayers, Chris. It helps to know that others care!

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