Sunday, May 9, 2010

It's All About Alzheimer's, Part One: Finding the Funny

This is April, Dad, not May.

Those words, spoken roughly a month ago, were the beginning of a new world for me. What had before been an infrequent series of "slips" on the part of my dad were now a horrifying growth of everyday gaps. The day, the month, and often the time were no longer things I could depend on my dad knowing at any given moment.

But what was most startling about the soon-to-follow diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease was how funny this situation actually is: It turns out I'm the confused one, not my dad. He made a good point, early on: "How important is it, really, that we know what day it is?" Other than showing up to an empty church if you mistake another day for Sunday, I didn't have much to offer in the way of an answer for a retired man. And when I went on a search of important papers to make sure we had answers for when he couldn't give them to us, all I learned was that my life is even more unorganized than I thought. My Dad, however, has a labeled file for everything--including "Papers someone left on the copier at the grocery store." Every event, every transaction, every dinner ever bought was documented in my dad's filing system. Meanwhile, even if someone held a gun to my head, I still wouldn't be able to tell you where my passport, health insurance card or birth certificate are. Hell, I don't even know where I put my car keys an hour ago.

I'm learning what really matters to my dad through the stories he's holding onto--finding my mom and building a family together, growing up during the war, Ronald Reagan's presidency--but also learning that I'm really blowing what matters to me--making my dad feel comfortable and trying to make change as smooth as possible. Just in the last 24 hours I've talked him out of wearing a long-sleeved shirt and jacket because it's May, only to force him to sit outside and freeze for Mother's Day brunch because I failed to make a reservation in time for us to sit inside.

It's good to know that no matter how unsettled this whole process is, some things will never change. I will always be the hot mess of our family, my dad will always be shaking his head in disbelief, and when I remind him of how unaccomplished I am, he won't remember it the next day.


  1. Love the your approach to this horrible disease. You have to find the humor in such tragedy to get you through the bad times. Your dad is so lucky to have you in his corner.


  2. Hey there Hot Mess,
    Great post! I love the honesty and the humor; both of which will serve you well as you steward your dad through this process. Be sure to take it easy on yourself, too, when you inevitably get frustrated. Please keep posting!!

  3. Thanks for the encouragement, Chris! You made my day.