I don't know how to write this post. I've been thinking it over for quite a while now, and I'm no closer to knowing what I want to say. I just know I need to say something. So here goes.
My father in law has Alzheimer's disease.
There. I finally put that in writing. Since his diagnosis a few months ago, I've been trying not to believe it, or to push it into the future; I've tried to think it's no big deal right now, just something that might be an issue in a few years. But it isn't.
We hadn't seen Dad for six months or so when we went out for the summer wedding. Already, it was clear that he wasn't quite himself. Once twinkly-eyed, engaged, and eager to laugh, he seemed distant and quiet. He'd respond if spoken to, but wasn't really able to carry on a conversation. He still did his woodworking, but the craftsmanship was gone. He would overeat, by several platefuls if not stopped, apparently forgetting the meal he had just had.
Dad and Mom came to us for Thanksgiving this year, as always, but for the first time their kids drove them here. Dad protested at first, but in the end he said he enjoyed being driven and watching the scenery from the passenger seat.
All of us knew this would probably be the last Thanksgiving where he would understand what was going on. Of course, I wanted it to be perfect. And of course, it wasn't. In fact, it was the worst turkey I ever served. Maybe the Alzheimer's was a mercy in that particular instance, because he ate like a farmhand and seemed to enjoy every bite, flaws and all.
He seemed his old self sometimes, exploring the house and property with Mom and my husband, congratulating us on the place and taking the new tractor out for a spin whenever he could. Then, there would be moments ... when he couldn't recall how to shake up a cruet of salad dressing; couldn't find the drinking glasses, though he'd been shown several times where they were; when he slipped on my coat instead of his own, though they look nothing alike, and didn't notice; when he couldn't play his favorite card game without help.
Mom has changed, too. Her naturally controlling tendencies have gone into overdrive. She is never more than a few feet away from Dad, watching his every move, commenting on or "correcting" most of them. She is exhausting herself already with his care.
Most disconcerting for me is Dad's blank passivity in the face of all this. Time was, he'd have put up quite a fuss at being bossed around. No more.
My husband's family is a practical, unsentimental lot. They seem to be taking this in stride, adapting to and accommodating Dad's needs without missing a beat. I envy them their resilience.
Maybe it's partly having lost my own mother this year, and missing my own Dad still, but I'm afraid I'm not handling this nearly as well. I'm trying to find some way to be at peace with this inevitable loss, but the process of the disease is so cruel.
It's like watching him fade, going transparent at the edges, like an old horror movie come frighteningly to life. The Invisible Man. And it isn't out there, up ahead. It's now. It's really happening. Right now.
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