It Strips Away Your Soul

I hadn’t seen him for a month. We live 130 miles apart. Takes three hours with all the trucks and RVs crossing the mountain pass. In three hours I traveled 40 years.

The door opened and he looked up, recognized my sister, who lives near him, sees him twice a week.

My father did not know who I was.

When my sister explained I was his son, he gestured to his knees and said “Last time I saw him he was this tall.”

Last time he saw me we had pizza together and talked about baseball and cars. The time before that I told him we were moving him into a memory care facility. For the first time in my life, I saw my father cry, if only for a few seconds.

Whether it is Alzheimer’s Disease or Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, what matters is that it is eroding his most basic skills. He can’t read, can’t count or understand numbers, has trouble walking without tripping, and is losing facial recognition. He can’t tie his shoes. He can’t figure out how to get into a car.

The disease is leaving his body alone. He is fit and healthy. He just doesn’t know it.

The thousand spokes that hold up the wheels of our identity vanish one by one. And then one day the wheel goes flat.

My father smiled and said polite things to us. But the moment we exited through the front door, leaving him with his cone of sherbet ice cream, he had already forgotten we were there.