Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Watching Him Fade

He had a lot of life left, a life filled with plans and good deeds and more plans and family and more plans and, then, gradually, he became unable to make plans or to follow through with plans or, increasingly, to remember that the plans were there at all.

Calculations which would have been done in an instant now required time, and repetition, and explanations.  There's a certain amount of denial on everyone's part, and it's easy to see why.  It's hard to watch, hard to wait, hard to feel the pain.  They are losing him, one moment at a time.  If, for some of those moments, he seems to rally and really join the party, who can blame them for grasping at the hope of a positive change?  The reality returns soon enough; let them enjoy their delusional happiness in peace.

People relied upon him.  He's a fixture in the community, the rock on which so many lives rest.  He had the answers; now, he is a question mark.  His is a quiet kind of dementia, not a loudly repetitive chanting dementia, not a wailing or a babbling dementia.  There's a vacancy where there was liveliness, the emptiness a fitting metaphor for the process itself.

He kept himself fit, running before his heart attack and walking the dog for miles afterwards, once he had the cardiologist's okay.  Use it or lose it was evident in his daily life, not that it did him much good in the end.  As Jackie Kennedy said after she was diagnosed with cancer, "All those sit-ups for nothing!"

I'm thrown back to G'ma's slow descent, remembering how lucky I was.  She never denied her memory loss. She never let it make her angry, either.  "Will I remember more if I'm upset about it?" "Who wants to be around a cranky old lady, anyway?"  But she was older and more ready to let things go.  This is more unexpected, and it hurts just that much more.

There's no solution that fits everyone's needs and expectations.  He's unwilling to talk about it and no one is quite sure if they'd had the conversation with him.... or not.  There are alternatives and there are decisions to be made and, for now, everyone is in a holding pattern, waiting for the next shoe to drop.

For sure, old age ain't for sissies.


  1. I am sorry. It must be hard to watch a loved one fade. I don't know which would be worse; to be the one who has to watch, or the one who is fading.

    1. That's part and parcel of the dilemma, Maryellen. You are both caretaker and needy, needy and caretaker.... outside and in.


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