Days with my Father

My father has no short-term memory. He’s otherwise in pretty good shape for an 89 year old but his memory, has failed him. Dad moved into full-time residential care some years ago as he requires constant reassurance and supervision. The  nursing home routine suits him well but even after all this time, he still hasn’t a clue where he is. Each evening he tells the nurses that he’s lost and asks if he can have a bed for the night.  He meticulously records in his diary that he’s “in hospital for night”. His only other regular diary entry, is a note to “ring Steph” but sadly, at this stage he’s even forgotten how to do that.

talking-phoneEverything is news to Dad. He cannot remember that my mother is in the same nursing home although he visits her almost every day. His eyes always light up when I tell him she’s just down the corridor.  Dad may not be able to remember much but he still bares all the same characteristics and his powers of observation are as sharp as ever.  He’s been a dapper dresser all his life and still insists on putting on a jacket and tie to visit my Mum. His bedside is littered with scraps of paper where he’s written down jumbled thoughts from his mind. One of the hallmarks of dementia is a deep suspicion of others and so my Dad tends to hide his possessions. A quick check of his belongings usually reveals a  banana hidden in a shoe and his bedside clock can be found in his wash kit along with several yoghurts and hundreds of biros. Quite a magpie, is my Dad!

The one thing that hasn’t changed with my father is his ability to enjoy company. He loves joking with the nurses and especially the female ones. He is always deeply appreciative of family visits and loves to hear news of the ‘outside world’. While words often fail him, it hasn’t stopped him enjoying hugs and close physical contact. We gad about the place together with arms linked and hands entwined as we laugh and chat. While it’s sad to watch my father deteriorate, I shall always be grateful that we’ve had this precious time together.

If you haven’t already come across ‘Days with my Father‘, I highly recommend it to you.  It’s a poignant photographic journal created by Phillip Toledano as an record of his own father. The resemblance to my father, is uncanny.

10 Responses to Days with my Father

  1. Grannymar says:

    How lucky you are Steph, to still have both parents alive and to enjoy such special moments with your father.

    Cherish them!

  2. Annb says:

    It can’t be easy for you watching your parents while they are at their most vulnerable. I have to agree with Grannymar though, having lost my own father as a child I often wonder what kind of old man he would have become. It sounds like you have a very beautiful relationship with your parents. And wow, I love his style, dressing up to meet his wife, now that’s what I call classy!
    Cheers,
    Annb

  3. Steph says:

    Grannymar – I realise how lucky I am. I shall hug them even harder from now on.

    Annb – My relationship with my parents has only blossomed since they went into the nursing home. It’s by no means all sweetness and light but I do enjoy being able to brighten up their days and sort out all their muddles at the same time. Neither of them have ever put any pressure on me to be with them and that’s what makes it such a pleasure to be there for them in their time of need. My Dad is much admired by the staff for his smart dressing and his sprightly march around the place. It’s just a pity that he hasn’t a clue where he’s going!

  4. Charlie says:

    I cried when I read this.

    I’m very glad that I got a chance to visit your father in 2003. It allowed me to get to know him, just a little bit, adult to adult.

  5. Steph says:

    Charlie – Thank you for that and I’m sorry to stir up family emotions. I had a lovely chat with Mum the other day about the time she visited you all in NZ. While she couldn’t recall the details, she remembers it as a very happy time.

    ‘Days with my Father’ made me realise that I haven’t got a good photographic record of my parents in their latter years. I shall take some more pictures and email them to you in due course.

  6. Baino says:

    Steph you’re a saint I think. I’m so glad that he at least recognises you and enjoys the visits it must be very rewarding. Clare has a friend, 24 years old who had a brain tumour removed just after Christmas. She now has no short term memory and has to write everything down in order to remember her social calendar. We’re hopeful she’ll recover but time will tell. Seems so young to lose what we all take forgranted.

  7. Charlie says:

    ‘Days with my Father’ is very, very good. I look forward to seeing your photos of your parents.

    I remember your mother’s visit to New Zealand in the late 1970s. I was living in Hamilton at the time, and my parents were in Wellington (or maybe they were still in Wanganui). My mother took her on a trip around the North Island, and I went to see them in Rotorua. Unfortunately I don’t remember much of the meeting with your mother, and when I saw her again in 2003 it was too late to get to know her.

  8. Steph says:

    Baino – I can assure you, I’m no saint and never will be! I just do what any right-minded person would do in similar circumstances. It’s sad to hear of a 24 year old with short term memory loss but then in the bigger scheme of things, I imagine she’s very happy to be alive.

    Charlie – My Mum was with you in January 1978. I remember it well as I was in hospital when she arrived home (following an appendicectomy) and I remember her turning up in the hospital en route from airport, looking as brown as a berry. Your Mum sent me a get-well present of a book which I treasure with the following note inside…

    “Jan 20th 1978 – We are having a LOVELY time together, P & I. Something very special in a lifetime”.

    I still miss your Mum terribly but I’m also glad she’s not around to witness the deterioration of her twin sister.

    Happy memories 🙂

  9. What a poignant post, Steph. I’m glad your dad still recognises you and your mum and is able to enjoy your company. Precious days.

  10. Steph says:

    AV – Thanks! My father, tells everyone that he hasn’t seen me in ages and my Mum thinks that I’m her sister much of the time but I don’t mind in the slightest as they are always so happy to see me. It is indeed precious time.

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