Losing Someone a Piece at a Time

That is, of course, more than a little tragic. I have to think back to all those personal things we did like

  • Celebrate sports victories – I carried him around the room when Sid Slid. He called me up when Mike Vick ripped through the Vikings’ defense in overtime during the playoffs. I had DirecTV which was always a few seconds slower than live TV so he almost spoiled it. We watched auto racing together a lot over the years.
  • I used to bring him recordings of The Sopranos and make him take me out to lunch in return. That was always a treat whenever a new season would start.
  • The two times we’ve bought houses, he consulted with me and voiced approval. The first house he gave me some down payment money to help. For the second, we stood in the kitchen after a walkthrough and he told me it would be a great home for my family for years to come.
  • I travel for work and I’d call him and my mom on the way home from the airport sometimes. We’d trade stories of the week, news, family things, and sports.
  • My wife and I could go out for date nights or vacations and my parents would be in town to help out.

There are so many things which you get used to when you have someone in your life for so long. They’re the things you can take for granted if you let them. The catch is, that doesn’t happen suddenly with dementia. Those pieces of them vanish bit by bit. My post about going out with my dad and my brother for guys nights is an example of a tradition which started as something fun, transformed to concern, became a way of keeping track of him when he was ill, and moved on to something we missed entirely. Last weekend I took my cousin to one of the places where we’d go and we reminisced about our fathers (his passed just a couple months before mine – more on that at a later date).

Dementia leaches the “person” out of someone slowly enough that you don’t have the chance to appreciate what’s not there anymore as it slips away. Maybe in little pieces, but not as a whole. My dad used to wake us up early Sunday mornings to watch Formula 1 races from Europe. We’d watch football and baseball all the time. When he started sliding, he’d keep talking about the Braves like they were going through a brief losing streak during the 90’s rather than a declined team who wasn’t competitive. When he was in the assisted living home, he didn’t register when playoffs were going on at all. Anecdotes like this tell parts of the story which mystify on their own, but tell a bigger story overall.

Each time I noticed an aspect like him having a complete unawareness of sports where he’d once had a passion, a piece of him was dying to me. I’d finish the visit, go back to my car, and probably wouldn’t be right for a couple days. This happened on a monthly basis and it chipped away at who I thought I was visiting. I never looked forward to seeing him because there would be more mourning involved. I know it kept me from going to see him as often as I could but I don’t really know that this is a bad thing. It was a way for me to manage a long grieving process more even than for him to see me – because he registered less and less of who I was and what I was there for.

So in the end, when he finally passed away, the man who died was a shell of who my father was at his peak. I was left missing a person who’d been gone for a long time even though I hadn’t been able to think of him in that way for a while. I hadn’t because I made myself used to losing him a visit at a time. This is the guy I miss the most.
My dad and my boys 11 years ago. A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

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