525,600 minutes

Dad.JPG

This picture is timeless. For as long as I can remember, my Father, pictured here, would sit quietly and read. He'd read the newspaper daily, sometimes twice, books, hell when he was a kid he read the encyclopedias. FOR FUN! So why am I sharing this picture in particular? When was this? 5 years ago? 10? Last month? Well, this was a picture from my last visit just this past week. I brought him the Northern NJ United Methodist newspaper that comes every month to my home. You see, ever since he was moved into a memory care home three years ago everything comes through me; bills, junk mail, and the occasional card from a few people that he touched in his life as a pastor and/or friend.

When I see him sitting in the chair reading I'm instatly transported to 6000 other times I saw him do this exact thing. The difference here is that I expect to be able to have the same conversations with my Dad like I used to when I saw him in his chair. I expect him to look at me and smile and ask how my day was or tell me it's a nice outfit I have on today. What I still don't expect is that look of blank stare that he doesn't know who I am. He doesn't recognize me. 

I've read all sorts of articles, talked to nurses, counselors, friends, and so on but nothing can prepare you for watching your parent die slowly. Visit by visit, day by day, they slowly leave you when you are dealing with dementia of any kind. But you see the worst part, in my experience, is they still look the same. They still look like at any moment they could tell you to go change your outfit or to CLEAN UP YOUR ROOM!!!! But not this guy. This man right here, who helped so many people in his life and career as a UMC Pastor, as a Father, a husband, a friend,  can hardly even form words anymore.

To people with any type of dementia every day is every day. Anything out of the normal can really throw them off. I've learned so much over the past few years caring for my Father but the most important thing I'm still learning, is to still look at him the same. Yes it's painful when he doesn't know me. It actually tears me apart inside and I usually end up crying in my car after. But I know he still loves me and although he can't express it any longer he's still my Dad. He's still the guy that taught me how to ride a bike, how to believe in people, how to share, and always help someone in need. He taught me so much and is now teaching me patience, humility, and what t really means to love someone unconditionally.

The Broadway show "Rent" has a song entitled "Seasons of Change". The lyrics say:

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

(you're welcome as you will be singng THAT for the rest of the day)

This song really resonates with me with dealing with my Father as well as his friends in the memory care home. Sometimes it feels like 525.600 minutes I've been sitting there with him in silence. Sometimes it feels like it's been that long since we had a "real" conversation. 

Progress NOT Perfection