My Dad, who has vascular dementia, is staying with us for a few days. Hence a slightly delayed post this week.
I’ve been finding it hard to get my head around how much he has deteriorated. No sooner do you get used to his diminished ability, he drops another level, and you have to come to terms with that.
My struggle with acceptance culminated on the first night, with me getting upset and crying in front of him. It was the worst thing I could do. He started crying as well – knowing I was sad, but not understanding why.
I realised I was imposing my perspective on his life, my own sense of loss for what he could no longer do. It didn’t help. Time to wipe the tears away and smile.
Dad was always a great talker, striking up a conversation with anyone, chatting constantly whenever the opportunity arose.
It’s been one of the things I’ve found the hardest. The long silences. I try throwing out topics, or comments about anything, and get no response in return – just the words hanging in the air.
On our wall we have the poem Desiderata. It begins: “Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may in silence.”
It’s so true – there is peace in silence. You just have to accept it, appreciate it for the quietness it is.
There’s another line in Desiderata. It says: “Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.”
That applies equally to me as to dad, or indeed us all, whatever age. At 49, I am no longer a child with an active, able parent – those days of us doing all kinds of outdoor busy activities together are gone, given up to be replaced by something different. Some new shared experience.
We drove to the beach today and had a crab sandwich and a cup of tea. Dad spoke hardly at all whilst we were out. But once at home, he said: “That was nice.” It was as much as he’d said and as bright as he’d been all day.
And it was nice: smelling the fresh sea air, a taste of salt from choppy waves, seeing boats bobbing on the water, blue sky above, green hills stretching off into the distance, hearing kids laugh and play on the beach, feeling the smooth roundness of the pebbles.
But most of all it was nice being able to enjoy it together with dad.
You have to make the most of what you’ve got, whilst you’ve got it. Don’t dwell on what you’ve lost, celebrate what you still have.
Things do change. It’s better if you can accept it.
It’s not always easy and I’m still learning – but I am trying.