Grieving for the living – Dementia in a family

I think the last time I updated this blog was before my father visited me in Spain last year. It was in November. And that’s when the absent-mindedness and his tendency to tune out in phone conversations that we always attributed to his strong, difficult, impatient personality had evidently turned into something else.

He couldn’t remember basic things. Like where he was. He would ask me the same questions on a loop over and over. He would wake up afraid because he didn’t recognise his surroundings.

He was still delighted to meet my daughter, but I did a lot of crying during that visit. And mostly this year feels like I’ve been wrestling with my complicated relationship with a man who used to terrify me. A man I ran away from one time, but who when given the choice, took me back on my terms instead of cutting me off from the family.

I’ve just come back from London, where my dad had surgery for his heart- they felt it might improve his condition since the blood flow was really bad.

We had to all be there because he kept forgetting where we were, and wanting to go home. He would pack his bags and dress for the airport, so we all had to be there to raise the stakes for him to stay. Because he wouldn’t leave us.

I’m glad to say that the day after surgery he was discharged and the morning after he was acting more like his older self. Not the usual him, but not the ghost of a person who seemed lost and confused in the last weeks either.

My husband sees me preoccupied and thinks I’m worried. But the truth is I’m grieving. It’s a helluva thing to spend ten days around someone and feel like they weren’t there. Like I didn’t have my dad anymore. And I don’t know if I’ll ever get him back.

My dad would have called me to check I got home safely after flying home. Even as an adult. He’s that much of a helicopter parent. It’s weird how all the things that drove me to near insanity are now things I miss.

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