Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Rocky Road of Life

The Road of Life is really not fair. One of the blessings of my pending divorce is that I returned to Texas to live with my parents. Humbling as that may've been, I have had the opportunity to resolve those little girl grievances I had with my father, Max. My understanding of him has increased these past 10 months, as well as the love I feel for him, while I listened to him share about his childhood and his relationships with his parents. And now, Max seems to have gone and lost his mind…literally. He must have misplaced it somewhere, because his short-term memory is evaporating at an alarming rate, and each day there are new examples of confusion and errors of judgment. Just when you think you’re in for an easy stretch of road, a patch of troublesome gravel and hairpin turns appear out of nowhere!

We have a doctor’s appointment scheduled this week for Max. The diagnosis could be anything from Alzheimer’s disease to a clogged carotid artery. My mother and I began noticing signs of confusion, irritability and forgetfulness in my father toward the end of the summer. While on vacation in Idaho, Dad suffered a terrible fall, landing on his face and breaking some of the facial bones. This may be the event that triggered the change in Max’s behavior.

I discussed the matter with a doctor, who advised me to have my father checked out for a blockage in the carotid artery. When I mentioned the suggestion to Dad, he listened, but made excuses for his behavior. Separately, my mother urged my father several times to go to the doctor, but to no avail. Whether it was pride or fear or just plain ornery stubbornness, my father refused to get a checkup.

The consequences of that decision have now manifested in more severe memory loss. My father forgot how to write out a check, how to set the cruise control in the car, can’t find his hearing aides, can’t figure out how to turn on the television, doesn’t remember where he keeps his pajamas, etc. I thought this would be incredibly frustrating for him, knowing how scary and frustrating it’s been for my mother. Although I’ve talked to him about it, Dad does not sense that anything is really wrong, or at least, he’s not letting on if he does.

Max has been my rock - my strong, dependable father. He’s always been the most predictable person I know - boring and predictable. Now, he’s anything but predictable. We have no idea what to expect next. Hopefully, his diagnosis will include a remedy that will reverse the symptoms he’s displaying. But, if this is something more permanent, such as Dementia or Alzheimer’s, then I think this will be a very long, difficult trial for all of us.

Even amidst this difficulty, I prayed a prayer of gratitude last night. I thanked my Creator for this time I have had with my father, this time of healing in our relationship and the increasing empathy and understanding I have about who Max is and what his childhood was like. I am grateful for my earthly father, who has been such a good provider, and who does love me.

So, anybody out there seen a Mind laying around lately? You may’ve noticed it, because it’s not yours. It belongs to my dad. He seems to have misplaced it. If you do find it, please let me know. Dad’s really not the same without it.

"Of all the things I've lost, my mind I miss the most." --Mark Twain

Watch Out For Curves Up Ahead, Y'all!

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