Angry Robot

Something Important Happened 1

Editor’s note: this is the first part of a five (maybe six?) part series about the death of my father that I started five years ago, shortly after it happened. It’s heavy! I won’t feel bad if you avoid reading it. But, the reason I share it here is that it might be helpful for those of you who have not gone through the death of a parent. It will probably happen to you at some point! It will not be exactly like my experience, but there may be similarities.

[All articles in this series will be archived here]

You’d complain about your memory. My role was to reassure. Don’t worry about it, I can’t remember anything either – it runs in the family. We’d laugh about the times we’d run upstairs to get something and then find ourselves standing there, trying to recall exactly what it was we had needed.

But on that trip you forgot your passport. So then they called it Mild Cognitive Impairment. They gave you exercises, and a book in which to write everything down. I tried to get you to play a brain-age game on my DS.

It was too late for all that. You stopped emailing because it took too much time. It could take you a while to string sentences together. After my weekly visit for dinner my mom would insist on driving me home, and would use the time to talk about how worried she was about you. Again, I was Captain Reassurance.

Finally it was Dementia with Lewy-Bodies – I joked darkly to myself that it sounded like a fast food order. Do you want the side order of muscle spasms or of hallucinations? it comes with both. Upgrade to aphasia for a dollar more.

The long retreat continued. Already a quiet man, you became even quieter. We told ourselves you were happy even if you weren’t talking. We said, if it was that hard for us to talk, we wouldn’t talk either. But when you did talk you were rarely yourself. When you did become animated, your words slipped so that your language became strange poetry. A Parkinsonian glaze covered your expression, and your body became frail – as if someone else, someone withered and wraithlike, was moving in to your body.

You saw things. You asked about my twin, said he had been around. You described coming down to the living room and seeing a group of strange people in it, silently staring at you. We realized later that it was much too late for you to go on that trip to visit with your daughters and their kids, and when you came back you were upset, muttering fearful things about shadowy officials foisting conspiracies. The Judge.

A few weeks later you freaked out. You ran out of the house screaming that someone was taking the children. We took you to the hospital. They began to tell us we should “consider” “long term care”.

The whole couple of days we were in there, you kept on trying to leave. You’d say, “c’mon, let’s go,” or “let’s get outta here.” It was so tempting to agree, to say “sure,” that word we so associated with you, that was so indicative of your easygoing nature – sure, let’s go, let’s leave this mess behind.