I brought some pictures with me when I visited dad this week. They were very old pictures from the 1930’s. I asked dad about the time and place for these pictures, and he identified them all for me. I asked him how he got there – if there was a bus for them, and he said no, they took the train. He definitely remembered the whole trip and what he had done there. He was in his teens at that time and it made a big impression on him.
This memory impressed me even more because lately dad hasn’t remembered visits from my brother and sister, even right after their last visit. One day he asked if I had heard from my brother in awhile and I said yes, we email each other. I asked if he remembered seeing my brother and sister the week before and he didn’t.
I know that Alzheimer’s disease is a memory stealer. And I know it takes recent memories first, leaving older memories the longest. Dad has had Alzheimer’s disease for 10 years now, but it is a slow progression type and he still functions well. Still, it leaves me flabbergasted to see how well he remembers those days of long ago and how little he remembers of recent weeks!
Dad will be having visitors again in about a month. My niece, my brother and probably my sister will be coming to see him for a few days. My niece has made arrangements to stay with my son, and I suspect my brother will stay near my sister as she doesn’t have a car. I hope dad enjoys the visit when it happens and I really hope he remembers it after they leave. He only sees my siblings a couple of times a year. Perhaps it is not often enough to leave a lasting impression. I don’t know how that works as he does remember that I come each week and the food and things I have brought him.
Dad also remembers my grandson who visit pretty regularly. I think all the older people enjoy being around children. Dad will often say how much he enjoys “the little guy”. I think my grandson will wear his Halloween Costume when he visits on the Sunday before Halloween. I know dad will enjoy that, and all the other residents in the lounge will enjoy it too. They all try to engage little George in conversation when he comes, but he starts each visit acting shy and hiding his face behind his hands. Still he smiles for them and nods his head and everyone ends up laughing with him.
Sometimes I get really frustrated with the lack of commitment by my siblings to my dad. Neither does much to help with his care and they don’t even visit much. My brother does telephone regularly though he often doesn’t reach dad. Dad tends to be in the lounge rather than in his room when the phone rings. And sometimes he just doesn’t feel like picking up the phone. But my sister doesn’t even call. She has said that she is afraid she will cry. But to me that is something she can overcome with regular calls. Yes, she may cry, but she will cry more after he is gone for what she didn’t do while he was here.
In the end, though, I remind myself that while I have all the work that goes into caring for dad — from the regular visits and meals out to the time paying his bills and making phone calls to straighten out problems. Still, I am the one that has my dad. I get to see him whenever I want to and we get to talk about anything I want to talk about. I will have these memories long after dad is gone. So yes, it sometimes feels heavy for me to do as much as I am trying to do. But no way would I give this time up!