By Marky J. Olson
Thatís my dad with his beautiful snow-white
curls framed by the lake. He still knows me, but the
last stroke left him in a wheelchair, in an adult family
home, and with dementia. His love of 65 years has been
gone for almost two years now.
Your mother was just here and
I wish she would stay. She just wonít settle down!
What did she say to you, Daddy?
Weíre not going to Hawaii
Iím really tired today.
I was in Tokyo last night and I flew 12 missions.
I would be tired too! Tell me
more about last night.
I got all of the tomatoes
picked up, but did you pick up the ball hoop last night?
Sometimes, gentle humor works: "I'm glad you got those
tomatoes, because that will save me a trip to the store."
But not always. When the caregiver calls in the evening, I
know my dad is experiencing sundowners, a colloquial term
for dementia that worsens in the evening. I try to calm him
down on the phone. Sometimes, just hearing my voice is
enough. When it isnít, I let go of my anti-medication bias.
Because. I want my dad safe, I respect those who care for
him and I want us all to sleep at night. For the most part,
a small daily dose of an anti-depressant seems to be
This dementia undermines dignity. And it robs me of a
gentle way of accepting my fatherís failing health. We
arenít able to sit together, recalling fond memories. It
denies us the comforting rhythm of normal conversation. As I
tuck my dad in for his nap, he looks small. He likes the
blanket close around him; that cocoon of comfort is one of
the few he has left. He looks up at me and says,
Sometimes I forget things.
My hard-won adult confidence desserts me. Something
like childhood homesickness ambushes me.