Last week, Ari and I were in Florida visiting my parents. It was partly a much-needed vacation. The day after my daughter and I arrived, we all got in my rent-a-car and made a beeline to Miami and saw some sights. We stayed a couple of days, and it felt good to finally have a vacation, albeit too short.
It was good to get away.
But when we returned to my parents’ house, reality set in.
Despite the levity of the first few days in Florida, I actually came there on business – the business of looking after my dad and calming my mom down.
My dad’s been losing weight for some unknown reason, and after a series of negative medical tests, I worked with medical personnel to schedule him for a colonoscopy during my week off from school so I could be there for my parents.
I’m sort of the family’s doctor-patient liaison, so I had come down for the prep rally and to be there for him and my mom on the day of the colonoscopy.
I’m hoping that doctors are able to find the cause of his drastic weight loss. He is frail and seems so elderly and vulnerable.
We have since had the good news that the large polyp the gastroenterologist found was benign.
Along with my family, I have breathed a huge sigh of relief. But I still have lots to worry about.
See, my dad has dementia.
When I was a child, my dad instilled in me a love for animals. He took me to the Bronx Zoo regularly, where I saw him perform his magic. In the children’s section of the zoo, my dad coaxed a talking bird to say my name. On. Each. Visit.
Other parents weren’t so lucky. The bird simply would not cooperate.
But when my father and I approached the beautiful, feathered creature, my dad simply said, “This is Beth.” And I stood, awe-struck, when the bird said “Hello Beth!”
During each zoo visit, my father also showed me ample flamingos, one of his favorite animals ever, at the zoo. We watched with fascination and appreciation, as the long-legged beauties would gracefully make their way across a small pond.
But now I’m watching with apprehension and horror, as my father is deteriorating before my very eyes. While at this time I’m not disclosing the details of his impairment, I can tell you it’s significant and nerve-rattling, and my family members have each noticed it.
We are talking about getting him tested for Alzheimer’s.
How do we break this news to him? Especially since he said he refuses to go to any more doctors.
Our trip to Miami was meaningful, for it may be the last trip that we take together. Of course, I’m hoping we can take more trips in the future and will do my best to make that happen.
I’m afraid a day will come when my dad won’t know my name.
I wish my daughter could see her grandfather as the once-vibrant man he used to be. The conjurer of bird English-speak.
She doesn’t understand his odd behavior.
Although she loves him, she recoils from him at times.
Yet she manages to have a good time with both her grandparents, especially on this recent Miami joy ride.
One of our Miami stops was the Seaquarium, home to a plethora of aquatic creatures. My dad and mom rested under some shade while Ari and I went exploring.
We came upon a type of bird section that rekindled the memory of a bird that once eagerly shouted my name. Only a few feet away flamingoes strutted on their fragile-looking legs.
For a few moments I was speechless.
This was a sign of things to come, I surmised, tearfully hoping it was not an omen.
Do you have any loved ones with dementia?
Are there any helpful resources/advice you would care to share? We may need some.
Tags: colonoscopy, dementia