Sunday, April 02, 2017

Walk Through the Storm

It was a dark and stormy night—seriously.

A rabid storm system barged its way into Brooklyn on Friday and the rain was so nasty I started humming that godawful song from Titanic.

I was in the middle of my Friday ritual, where I order up a vat of wonton soup and a small mountain of fortune cookies from the Hot Wok, my local Chinese place, and park my rear end in front of the TV for a night of Netflix and "Law & Order" reruns.

Exciting, no?

Well, actually it did get a little suspenseful as the wind roared so loudly that at one point that I hit the mute button just to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. It was only the wind, all right, but that was enough.

This was one of those nights where you thank God you’ve got a roof over your head.

The rain kept on going and my mind floated back to another brutal storm and even though this one happened in the middle of the day it was one of the blackest times of my life.

It was a cold day in November and my father was starting to show the first signs of dementia.

I was living in the house with him at the time and, to be honest, I was in denial about his condition. I couldn’t allow myself to believe that my dad, who was always the leader of our family, was losing control of his faculties.

He had been a salesman for a wholesale meat company for most of his working life and he used to drive all over Brooklyn to take orders from his customers.

But he had retired years earlier so I was a little surprised when I saw him putting his coat on and preparing to head out into the middle of the pounding rain.

Hold Your Head Up High

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“I have to see some customers.”

Customers? It didn’t make any sense. His customers were either dead or retired by then.

I didn’t know what he was talking about—or, more accurately, I didn’t want to admit what was happening-so I just stood there and watched my dad walk out the door.

I couldn’t physically restrain my own father, but I feel so stupid now looking back on that day and my staunch refusal to see the terrible truth.

Maybe it was too hard for me to accept that my father’s mind was slipping away.

He came back a short time later, battered by the wind and rain. I pointed to a small plastic bag he was clutching.

“What’s in there?”

“Order forms,” he said.

I looked in the bag and saw nothing but blank sheets of paper. He apparently thought he was carrying the order forms he used to fill out when he was still working.

It was frightening and quite upsetting to see him like this.

I helped him dry off and put the sheets of paper away. A short time later my sister said we would need to hire someone to stay with him at all times and even then I had my doubts.

The storms got worse around our house as time went by and our father drifted farther and farther away from us, until he couldn’t recall my name and would casually ask for my mother even though she had died years earlier.

It was a dark memory suitable for a dark and stormy night. I try to think about the good times we had with our father before dementia took him from us. And my heart breaks for other families who suffer through this nightmare.

It was bitterly cold and cloudy on Saturday, and I had to wrap myself up in that damn parka of mine, but today the temperature climbed, the sun was shining brilliantly, and ugly memories were retreating back to the gloom where they belonged.

6 comments:

Bijoux said...

I'm so sorry, Rob. We are in the early stages of this with both my father and my mother-in-law. It's heartbreaking.

Jay said...

What a terrible thing, dementia is. I think deep in our hearts and souls we are all afraid of it, even if there's no trace of it in our ancestry. I really feel for you, with those dark memories waiting to jump out at you whenever there's an association .. and of course, because it is a chronic condition, the associations must be legion.

Rob K said...

Hi, Jay.

Yes, it's so terrible to know you're losing someone even if they're standing right in front of you. And every time I forget someone's name I wonder if this is an early warning sign for me.

To be honest, I do have a tendency to seek out the dark memories. I'm trying to retrain my mind to look toward the light and not the night.

Take care!

Rob K said...

@Bijoux:

Oh, I am so terribly sorry to hear this! It is indeed heart-breaking and I wish you all kinds of love and peace.

Please do take care and know that you and your loved ones are in my prayers.

Ron said...

Rob, even in writing something so bittersweet as this, your writing is so exquisite.

My grandfather, my mothers' father, was diagnosed with dementia which eventually turned into Alzheimer's. It was heartbreaking to witness. My mother was so attentive and dedicated to him for the last year of his life. It was especially hard for her because she was so very close to her father.

I know we all must die, however, I think losing your mind is much more difficult and challenging than losing your body. Because if your body is ill, you still have your mind. But if your mind is ill, you don't have your mind or your body.

Thanks so much for sharing this story, buddy. Beautiful ending.

Have a great week!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, how's it going?

I'm sorry to hear about your grandfather. You're so right about the difficulties and challenges of losing your mind. It is so awful for the families who have to take care of their loved ones.

I know I'm being bitter, but I find it hard to believe that we haven't found a cure for this yet.

Take care of yourself, buddy, and, as always, thanks for stopping by!