Let me tell you a little about the pictures: The above picture is of my parents. My mom is studying the Din Tai Fung dumpling menu while we wait to get seated for the restaurant. It’s a pretty happening place. My dad is just waiting and I can’t tell what he’s thinking these days anymore. The picture below is of my dad and my kid waiting for the movie, “The Croods,” to start. We had a disastrous lunch and watching a movie was a welcome recovery to that.
I am in Seattle visiting my parents and this visit has been even more heartbreaking than other visits. I tried hard to come here without any expectations, but there must’ve been some hope that somehow was hidden away in my heart.
My dad suffers from dementia and his decline has been quite sad for me. He is not the same dad that I knew – even a few years ago when my daughter was born. In the short span of her life thus far, my dad is not able to really read or do other mental tasks and he cannot remember or recognize once familiar things or people. There are days he misplaces his toothbrush and cannot find it again. I find his handkerchiefs hidden around the house in odd places. He seems to get angry so easily and frustrated that people try to do things for him. He doesn’t really talk much anymore or even ask questions. He doesn’t interact with his granddaughter much anymore.
I feel twangs of embarrassment and heartbreak – all at the same time. I have moments that I wish I could go back to Boston so I can ignore that this is going on and other moments where I wish I could magically get rid of this terrible disease that’s happening in my dad’s brain. One minute I want to burst out in tears and the next minute, I feel annoyed by all of this. I look at my dad and try to engage in a conversation and it doesn’t go very far.
We find a seat in the movie theater. The three of us are watching “The Croods” and I look over to see how the little lady is doing in the scary parts, but I also glance over to see my dad. Sometimes he has his eyes closed and other times, it looks like he is watching. I don’t think little lady really gets this movie and she tells me numerous times, “I don’t think we should watch this movie – it’s a little bit-it scary.” I give little lady her security blanket and hold her hand because I’m not sure what I will do with the both of them if we take off from the movie early.
There are some father-daughter moments in the movie and I find myself getting quite choked up. I am wishing Ninja were here to hold little lady’s hand and to share in a little father-daughter moment with her. Then, I start to cry like a baby as the movie nears the end. I wonder when the last time was that I told my dad that I loved him. I wonder if he would remember it. I wonder if I told him today, would he still remember it tomorrow? I’m afraid that my dad sees me as the enemy – of someone that is trying to take away his dignity and control over his own life. I just want to help, but I fear that I am making things worse. I fear that he won’t remember that I love him. I fear that he won’t remember me anymore.
I dry my eyes and compose myself as we get ready to leave the theater. I gently direct my dad to the exit and we go to dinner. I try hard to talk to him and engage him in conversation, but it really doesn’t go anywhere and little lady is too tired and full of popcorn to really interact with grandpa. There are lots of long pauses filled with silence.
But, I try to enjoy this moment and let a little bit of hope leak out of my heart’s hiding place – maybe this will be a moment he will remember and he will know that I sit here because I love him.