When you are a parent of young children and your kids are anywhere in a crowd they shine out to you. Top of the class, front of the line, star of the show. You look around and think “why is no one looking at my miracle, my darling my joy?” Then you realize everyone is looking at their own, thinking exactly the same thing.
When your dad goes into a LTC facility, you walk into that place and there is no way your person belongs there. They stand above. There are grey haired people with wrinkles and crumpled bodies folded almost without bones into chairs. There is drooling, and limbs that lie limp. There are unexpected outbursts and accidents and bizarre behaviour. There is a smell of loneliness.
In those places I am sure the same thing happens. Everyone is looking at their loved one thinking they are top of the class and don’t belong there. Your joy, your person is top of the class- how is it that they belong here. Am I dreaming?
Going there is hard. Not going there means you don’t have to think of him that way. I can be busy and forget mortality and age and the tragedy of Dementia. But if I don’t go I feel very badly. I think of him feeling things he can’t express and maybe even feeling lost. Or alone.
I arrived today the way I used to go to pick up my young children. I would sneak in and spy. I would see how they lived outside of me- how they interact, socialize and how they look when they don’t know anyone is looking. Then you approach them slowly to let the joy of them seeing you wash over them. His face lights up and he says, big smile, ” It’s you”. The sweet of this runs through the blood like sugar. Today he remembers my name. For my children they slowly became people who told me complex things when we greet each other. Here it is slowly getting simpler. One day he will not know me. One day he will not speak.
I take him out to the courtyard and we go for a walk. We are making each other laugh. We speak the same language. I brought our favourite ice cream bar. We sit for a while in the warm sun. He looks at me and says “You are growing up so beautifully.” I am 47. I start to cry. Really hard. I don’t look away and neither does he. He studies my wet face.
I don’t like growing up.