quietly slipping away

My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.  -Jim Valvano

Quietly slipping away, brain cells diminished by frontal-temporal dementia, my father exists a shell of a man. It has been a long time since I have written about my dad. It is difficult to express the sadness in my heart as I watch his decline. It’s not like I didn’t know what was coming.  My years working in a nursing home have taught me a lot about dementia but did not really prepare me to face my own father’s decline.

He is totally incontinent now and his speech is gone. His eyes offer only an occasional hint of recognition that I am his “favorite daughter.”  I am the oldest and only daughter and he always made me feel special. He still does …. fathers and daughters have a heart connection, after all.

I wonder what his life is like… what he thinks… if there is anything going on behind that blank stare? I remember the time in OT (occupational therapy) school when we did a lab where we had to take turns feeding each other and how powerless I felt. When my father was more communicative he would express his frustration verbally and with gestures.  Now there is silence. Is that silence without an expressed emotion, I wonder? Or is the frustration there but trapped inside a body that is no longer able to express it?

I like to  imagine that he is resigned  to “what is” and I hope that the part of the brain that judges harshly and feels grief is finally quiet. I’d like to think that the love in his heart is still there even though he is unable to express it with hugs and kisses…. If he still experiences frustration , I know that would be its greatest source.

My dad, who became a father at the tender age of 16, worked hard to support his family. If there is a gift in this illness  for him perhaps it is this time to rest and be taken care of.  I  hope that he continues to accept care from those of us who love him.

Tears are flowing as I write…. they come easily these days when I think of my dad.  I have memories of good times and some not so good. I accept them all and am in gratitude that I was one of the lucky ones…. to have a father who loved me and treated me well. I love you, Dad.

Related posts:  The Long Goodbye, When the Words Are Gone

There is a beautiful welcome for you in the home you are going to.  ~ John O’Donohue, Entering Death (To Bless the Space Between Us)

8 thoughts on “quietly slipping away

  1. Peggy, you’ve been on my mind lately. What an eloquent post about your relationship with your dad. He has every reason to be proud of you. I wanted to tell you that I loved your Thanksgiving greeting. Jim and I say three things each day that we’re thankful for and I think it keeps us more positive. We send you our love and hope to see you this winter.

    Love from your aunt Ellen

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    1. Hi Ellen…. I am feeling the love. Thank you for your kind words and support. I think gratitude is powerful for shifting one’s thinking and healing old wounds. At least it helps me. I look forwrd to seeing you soon. Love, Peggy

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  2. Peggy, I am going through a lesser but similar process with my mother… she is still “with it” part of the time but is terribly confused and disoriented most of the time. She still has words and asks the same Q’s over and over: “what’s happened to me? Was I in an accident? Where am I? Who takes care of me? What do I do every day? What’s wrong with my brain? Did I have a stroke? Can we fix this?” And she get’s startled a lot because when I visit, if I leave the room for a minute and walk back in she doesn’t remember that I was just there…When I say I am visiting here, she is confused..where did I come from? Where do I live? Can I stay with her? it goes on and on…she doesn’t know her grandchildren anymore, her friends, her neighbors… “gone”. So sad to watch her shut down and her world get smaller and smaller..

    With great empathy,
    Dee

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    1. Thank you, Dee. There ARE so many families dealing with a similar situation. Most parents never want to be a burden to their children and yet…. It is never easy but we do what we can out of love.

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