We’ve been back stateside for almost a week. Re-entry shock has been limited to one main thing and I won’t lie – the grand size of American people in general. (It shows how unhealthy our American diet is, among other things!) Most of our time has been spent helping my parents by taking them to doctor’s appointments, cleaning the house, doing odd projects around the house, repairing things, etc. It’s amazing how much there is to do around the house – my to-do list is very long! Once I got over the initial shock of seeing my father so weak and frail, we dived right into helping my parents in any way we could. I think that one of the top ten hardest things in life must be seeing your own father become like a child, almost helpless, and weak before your eyes.
I realized how much I didn’t consciously try to remember my dad when he was healthy and strong. It’s also funny how random the things that I do remember about my dad are including the way he shut the door when he left the house for work, the way he laughed when he got angry, the quiet love he had for his yard work, how he used to grow tomatoes, etc.
In case you didn’t know, my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s within the past few years. He’s almost 75 and as far as I can recall, he was almost normal exactly three years ago when I left for Nagoya, Japan. At the moment, I feel just like I do about my 93-year old grandmother. We still have her shell here, but it’s not her anymore, not the wonderful woman I used to know (she had a stroke and can barely speak now). What I see now is not my dad, but a shadow of who he is, the vibrant, outgoing, funny man I love. I think I spent the first three days in mourning as though my father is already gone. I cried a lot especially before bed without even anything to trigger the tears and it’s very hard to stop crying once I get started.
Here are a few examples from the past few days. We tried to take him out to eat at a diner but he freaked out and we had to take him home mid-meal. He often starts yelling obvious things in an angry, loud voice at random times and I have to tell him, “Dad, it’s okay, I know. Calm down, dear.” He gets easily confused and disoriented and has trouble speaking most of the time. He cannot get up out of his chair or climb any steps without assistance. Sometimes he cannot sleep and paces the house all through the night which means my mom cannot sleep either.
My mom has been serving as my dad’s caregiver and is extremely exhausted physically and emotionally. I am so glad we can be there to support her through these painful days and we can cry together. An estimated 5.4 million people have Alzheimer’s disease, and I imagine there are many millions of exhausted, stressed-out family members taking care of those patients.
At the moment, Matthias and I are doing our best to safe-proof the house in case my dad should fall and clearing out tons of stuff from the basement and garage, and we’ll be looking into different options for my mom as my dad’s condition continues to decline. We’re taking things one day at a time, and trusting God as we move forward into unknown territory, the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but we all know my dad is moving closer to death each month.
When I was 1-year old
I am very thankful that my dad was well enough to walk me down the aisle on our wedding day. Sadly, I don’t think he’d be able to do that now since he can barely walk. God’s timing is good, and I am very thankful for good memories of our big day.