Sunday, October 26, 2014

Forgetful Father

My father is forgetting. It started a couple of years ago, gradually, but now it happens more times than I like.  

One day a couple of years ago we were at a funeral service for my great uncle. We saw a woman we knew and her son and daughter in law. We said hello to her and when we got in the car to drive to the repass my sister and I started talking about the woman and her family. My father told us he didn’t know that woman. We were surprised. We didn’t think it could be possible that my dad could forget this woman and her late husband.

“Daddy, don’t you remember Jesse’s sister married Ester’s brother?” we asked.

“No,” he answered.

“But Daddy surely you remember David and Gilbert,” we insisted.

“Kind of,” he answered.

“Do you remember David and Sandra?”
For some reason he did remember them, probably because Sandra was a good friend of our older sister for many years and he had seen them as recently as the baby showers for my kids 8 and 11 years earlier.

However no matter how many different ways we asked him if he remembered David’s parents he did not. He even became irritated by our questions until my sister signaled to me that we should stop asking.
The same thing continued to happen and I started noticing a pattern. My father was forgetting people he didn’t really like in the first place.  My sister and I marveled at this. How cool is that? To get old and forget people you never even liked. It takes out all the stress of not liking people now if you’re not even going to remember them later. Everyone I’ve told about it also think that it’s the best thing to look forward to in our old age.

Unfortunately there’s also a bad side to forgetting. He also forgets to take his medicine sometimes. It’s gotten to the point that I can’t leave him the pill box with the entire week’s worth of pills because he will take the wrong day, or take the night ones in the morning or he’ll take them twice. So now I only leave him the medicine he needs to take. If I’m home I can give him the medicine and watch him take it. If there isn’t any more medicine on the kitchen table he doesn’t take anything twice.
Sometimes he forgets that he has a key to the dead bolt and sits outside until I get home. He’ll insist that he came up to the door and the door was locked and he couldn’t open it. Or I get home and his key is in the door. Other times I’m at home and he comes home from his restaurant and sits outside because he’ll say that no one was home to open the door, even though he has a key, even if he didn’t knock on the door or ring the doorbell or even if my car is obviously parked in the driveway.

Those are the scary times. The times when I worry. When I worry that one day something will happen to him because he forgot to do something. Especially now that I’m working full time. I know that it’s time to either hire a care-giver to come to the house or he needs to go to an adult day care facility but he’s still independent-thinking enough to not agree with that arrangement. He doesn’t want someone else caring for him and he sees an adult day care as one step away from a nursing home. So I struggle. I struggle with making him happy and keeping him safe.
Then we have days and weeks where everything works out fine. There are no mistakes with his medication. He comes and goes freely without any problems or confusion with the door. And I fall into a comfort thinking everything is okay.

It used to be that he was forgetting everything recent but could still remember stories from long ago. Now it’s getting to where he’ll tell me a story he’s told me before but he changes something in the story. He told me a story about a man who lost both arms in an accident with a train and he said that years later his brother saw the man and that he also lost both legs. I ask how and he says he has no idea and that he never asked his brother. But I know that he did and I know that he told me this story a long time ago but now I can’t remember how the man lost his legs either.
I asked him one day if he found it sad that he couldn’t remember people and he says no because he doesn’t know that he doesn’t remember them. He just thinks he doesn’t know them. I ask him, “But what if I tell you that for sure you knew that person. Does it make you sad then that you don’t remember.”

“No,” he answers, “Because I don’t really believe you.”
I find that comforting somehow. To think that at least it doesn’t bother him and it doesn’t make him sad. I find it comforting to think that maybe that’s what happens when we get old. We just forget and we aren’t sad because we don’t think there’s anything to be sad about.

No comments: