When did this happen?
How does time just seem to accelerate with each passing year? Hell, with each passing day!
Not so long ago, it seems that he was still as sharp as a tack. Sure, his gait is a little slower, he falls asleep in his easy chair and he needs a hearing aid but that’s to be expected for a man in his seventies.
Now he’s in his eighties. He’s a little more hunched over and his gait is slower still. But now his memory is rapidly dimming. He must really work at remembering where he put his glasses or his coffee mug or his pad and it takes him an increasing amount of time to do it. It has progressed beyond repeating stories of events that happened last year. Now it is talking about an issue we discussed not ten minutes ago.
When did he become so “old”?
Did this happen suddenly? Probably not. It was more like a slow drift into the rocky shoals. The further in we go the more the boat gets banged up and takes on water.
I can see with my own eyes how much time he spends retracing his steps, looking for clues, grasping for the elusive thread that will lead him back to the place he was before. And I’m not just talking about the misplaced cell phone; I’m talking about the place when his memory was still pretty sharp.
His frustration is palpable. He used to pride himself on his wits and his memory. His memory would compensate for his less than sterling organizational skills. But no more. Now he places important papers on a pile and then cannot recall on which of the many piles he put it.
I’m not inside his head but I’d bet there’s a good deal of fear mixed in with that frustration. He knows he’s slipping and the rope is covered in grease. This is not going to get any better, he thinks. What will happen to me when I cannot remember to feed the dog or pay the bills; what will become of me when I can no longer remember my kids or my own name?
If a man doesn’t have his memories, is there anything left of him?
“I am so sorry for having to put you through all this. I’m sorry I’m such a burden to you.”
“I seem to recall dragging you through my hell about 12 years back, dad. This is no burden. We’ll get through this.”
I count it a privilege to be able to be of service to him now and to be there for him in the future. I think he takes comfort in that; at least that’s the feeling I get from him. Maybe it’s a sense of not being alone and perhaps just a little bit less afraid of walking into the darkness knowing that someone is going through it with him.
I have no illusions about the long, hard road ahead. There are going to be some very difficult conversations and decisions in the coming year. He knows it, too.
“Forewarned is forearmed. We’re a lot alike.”
Yeah. I know.