Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My father was recently diagnosed with dementia. I used to hear the word "dementia" and imagine insanity, blathering and drool. My father is none of those. He is ever the same humor, wit and sweetness, although he is quieter and doesn't have the same patience with the grandchildren--and he gets cold more often.

He got lost a few months ago when he was driving a few blocks on Highway Six to the post office. Unfortunately, Highway Six in the wrong direction can get a person way out of town. Hours and hours later, after we tracked him to Charleston and then back to Summerville (and at that point thinking he was coming home) he ended up out of gas way up in northeastern South Carolina, having run out of gas in the middle of the road. There was a police officer who stayed with him on the road for nearly three hours while FrM and my mother drove up to get him. The car had stopped itself next to a pond. As my mother was making phone calls, FrM chatted with the police officer, who casually took out his flashlight and shone it over the pond next to the road. Little red, beady dots covered the surface of the water. "Y'know what those are there?" says he. "Alligators?" says FrM. "S'right," says he.

It's been a while since I put anything on my blog. It was never meant to be anything but an avenue for me to record things and tales of the children I thought I might forget. I thought I would use the occasion of my father's diagnosis to start up again.

It is sad to see that my dad is cognizant enough to know that he is losing his memory. He might say to my mother, "Did you just tell me that?" Or he might only remember things just after asking something. From what I have heard, it is best to just roll with it, as if he hasn't already asked something four times in the past ten minutes. He is often quiet in social settings, sometimes just adding a few words--but something so witty it will cause a whole room to erupt in laughter. He is understandably nervous of showing himself to be lost, inattentive or just blank to the conversation.

Obviously it makes me sad. Of anyone I have ever known, my father is a man stuffed full of stories. And they're all true. Three times he might forget he bought a birthday card for my mother before we even get out of the store, but he has a very precise memory of his hometown, his childhood and his family. If we can ask nothing else for now, this is a blessing beyond measure.
A Wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! (C.D. Tale of Two Cities)