What’s Important

I’ve made a few references to my father’s dementia, how it has impacted his behavior, and how he communicates. To sum it up, conversations over the last few years have become more and more about the same things over and over. As his brain damage progressed, most of the conversation points remained the same but details have started slipping. Current context and news decreased. Details have slipped and even names are now fleeting. What’s left for the most part is what’s important to him.

Interestingly, that’s how he interprets it too. He’s entirely unaware that he’s been changing and that there’s anything wrong with him. At the same time, he can be very persistent in letting us know about these things. A couple weeks ago we got together with a cake for his 78th birthday and last week my brother, mother, and I met with him at the neurologist’s office to be there for his evaluation. Time and time again, he’d talk about something on his mind then follow it up with “And that’s very important.” This was particularly the case when we were talking with the nurse. She’d be asking him a question or have him do different tasks to check his motor skills and he’d detour to talking about one of the things important to him.

SS Pampanito on a nice day
Nothing better than touring a World War II sub with your grandsons.

Those subjects would always be family, keeping in shape, and saving during his life so he and my mother would have resources and something to pass down. He used to talk a lot more about other things such as politics, his car, World War 2 (he’s a history buff). Those have fallen off though and he’s distilled into the core elements which represent his life’s work. On one hand that’s sad and on the other, it’s very reassuring. It feels fitting somehow that what’s left is not only what his real life’s work has been, but that the meaningless or shallow things are what’s gone. Every one of those talking points are positive. He’s not obsessed with money, he doesn’t grouse about Congress, and he isn’t boastful about his knowledge – and there was a time when he was all of these.

High Horse?
Travel with my mom has always been important to my dad.
I don’t know if this shift is because he’s just not capable of the detail needed to talk about investments or current events. I do think it’s significant that he’s got his family to make him happy. It’s very difficult to try to take life lessons out of a situation where someone you love becomes less and less the person they were. It feels like there is one here. It’s very easy to focus on negatives, especially when that’s the majority of news coverage. It’s extremely easy to find something to make you unhappy then feel secure in the fact that you’ve got a gripe to go back to. It could be traffic, the extremely left or right who can’t grasp your stand and are therefore morons, a co-worker or family member who rubs you the wrong way. It could be anything – but it doesn’t need to be. If you keep focused on what’s really truly important then spend the right amount of energy on what’s left then it’s possible to be a lot happier and thankful for what’s right in your life.

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