My father came to live with me 3½ months ago. And although it’s been joyful, it’s been hard.
Joyful because we are finally reunited, and I offer protection and attention — he’s 90 and suffers from dementia — but hard because of the deep sense of loss.
The move meant losing his house of 40 years — a house he’d built. It also meant moving away from an environment he’d lived in for 65 years. And although he’d come to dread the bitter, unforgiving winters of northern Iowa, it was still home.
But the greatest loss of all was his car. As with a lot of people, his car was an extension of himself. He had spent a lot of time talking about cars. A Ford man, he would banter with his friends about Chevy versus Ford.
As a little girl, when he took me places, we’d play a game to see if I could identify the make and model of the other cars on the road. Was it a Dodge or a Plymouth? No, the hood ornament was that of a Chrysler.
When he was diagnosed with dementia five years ago, his doctor told him he could not drive. But, he did anyway as long as my mother was in the car to guide him. He even got his driver’s license renewed for two years on his 90th birthday this past October.
But when we relocated my parents to Baton Rouge, we sold the car. Driving here is risky for everyone and would be deadly for someone in his condition.
Though he pines for his car, which is a setback, we have made progress in other parts of his life — most notably his hearing.
A major point of contention between him and my mother had been his refusal to wear his hearing aids and his constant “what, what, what” when anybody would try to talk to him.
The hearing aids were clunky and, I’m sure, uncomfortable, but they were paid for through his health insurance. A child of the Great Depression, he was not about to pay for something that was free.
His new doctor here recommended good hearing aids, which he said would help with dementia. Through cajolery, I got him tested and fitted with one new, expensive hearing aid, which he wears. And the doctor was right, life is now better for all of us.
I know there’s no cure for dementia, and it will only get worse. But I’m determined to prolong the moments when my dad is lucid and can enjoy the present. He has a wonderful sense of humor.
I pray that I’ll have the strength, creativity and skills to care for him properly in his final years. After all, he was always there for me, and now I’m here for him.
And this year when I wish him Happy Father’s Day, he’ll be able to hear me.
— Benedict lives in Baton Rouge
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