My father has Alzheimer’s Disease. And Parkinson’s Disease, which, his doctor says, is hereditary. He doesn’t have a problem recognizing people. He has a problem distinguishing a shoelace from a zipper. He can’t work the clothes washer or drive his car. He struggles to finish a sentence, and remember how it started. He can’t see how different 1,000 and 10,000 are.
He is slipping away slowly and no one can bring him back.
My sister is caring for him in her home for now. But it’s hard. He doesn’t sleep well. Or for very long.
My job has been to collect all of his documents and save what needs to be saved, and destroy what needs to be destroyed. He has not thrown away a piece of paper in at least 10 years. Newspapers, coupons, phone bills; and then there’s the tax documents all the way back to 1965. I have shredded more than 3000 pages so far. I have found more than 200 VHS tapes, two VCRs, four DVD players, two lawnmowers, 500 empty water bottles, $68 in coins, mostly pennies. I haven’t estimated how many Memorex cassette tapes he has. There must be several hundred.
He did not know where his money was. Thankfully, I found it. He will need it. Memory care is not cheap.
I knew he was a loner. But there were no pictures of friends or family – just rocks, bridges, canyons; lonely things. People would send him studio photos of their families or children. He’d save them in piles, hidden away in the randomest places. Under phone books, coupons or VHS tapes.
He forgot to charge his flip phone and it died. So he bought a new one. Turns out he has three now.
I found a stamp collection. His father had collected stamps when my father was a child. I had the book from that hobby once, but I gave it back to him when I went off to college 27 years ago. I didn’t realize he had started collecting again. He has thousands of stamps from pretty much every country. The hobby catalogs are happy to send you fake letters with cancelled stamps, sealed up in clear wax paper so you can hold the envelope without ruining it. You can imagine visiting The Bahamas or The Philippines or The Netherlands.
I have been to The Dalles.
He has a collection of almost 100 National Geographic DVD’s. I found several of the magazines in random piles, too. And maps, atlases, guides to countries like Italy and Mexico. I think he really wanted to go places. I think he really wished he had seen the world before he settled down at 19 and did what everyone else did.
Everyone else has regrets about what they never did, or about whom they could have been once.
I think it is interesting how neatly those things can fit into a box and be stored away for decades.