Sunday, August 09, 2009

Coping

Wow. Bloggers and Facebookers are awesome. Everyone's kind comments really are appreciated.

We're getting through the days. It's exhausting - there are so many things to think about and organise, and the funeral won't be until Friday. But we're remembering a lot of good times and even finding the funny side now and then.

My Dad had dementia and had been in a nursing home for the past four years. He was quite physically well, and hated sitting around idly - I think retirement was actually some kind of hell for him - so the staff would find jobs to occupy him. He loved to be helpful, and was also an old-fashioned kind of gentleman, so if he was asked to do something, he just did it. He swept floors, he carried things, he even washed a car for one of the girls not so long ago.

The staff loved him, and the smokers would take him outdoors with them for a puff. There were a couple who were really close to him and would ask for (and receive) a kiss on the cheek daily when coming on or going off their shifts. As for Dad, he mostly thought he was on holiday somewhere - he particularly liked the motel he was staying at, the staff were really nice. But some things didn't fit, even in his muddled mind, and he'd comment on them, sounding a bit puzzled. He'd often remark to us that it's usually a lot warmer up here this time of year. He never seemed to find it odd that we popped in to see him, or that his mate of 40+ years would call in on Wednesdays for a game of cards (and usually an argument), while he was away up north.

I suppose if you have to be delusional, being on holidays is about the best delusion you can have.

It's been sad watching him decline, of course. The times he didn't recognise us became a lot more common than those where he did. But he still appreciated a hug and a kiss and we're sure that most of the time he realised that he should know us. He was too polite to ask who are you? and would just chat about the weather or comment on something in the room, or roll out one of his many habitual phrases. You're looking lovely today was a favourite. It made me smile, even though I'm sure he said the same thing to the girls who cleared away his plate or made his bed. If you took him a Cherry Ripe, or some Old Gold, he'd rip into it with gusto, but would continually stop to offer it around to everyone there.

There were echoes of the man he really was, but to us, he was a faded shadow of our Dad, and it was painful to watch. I could never stay for long, and would often be blinking back tears as I left. He would sometimes be confused and would then become distressed over small things, as though he knew that he should know this - his failing memory was obviously incredibly frustrating for him. Deep down, we all wished for a release for him, long before his illness progressed to the point where he would lose all dignity and any remaining shreds of his personality.

This was a huge shock to us all though. He'd come down with a flu-like illness just a few days ago, but was feeling a lot better on Thursday morning, and the staff commented that he was on the mend. Thursday night, he ate his dinner, put himself to bed and simply didn't wake up. There are worse ways to go. He was probably about as happy as he could be - the only things that could have made his evening better would have been a Scotch and a smoke.

I'll have to have that Scotch in his honour. I'll skip the smoke though, if you don't mind, Dad. Cheers!

10 comments:

Doing this for me!! said...

*through tear filled eyes* Kek, thinking of you at this time....

There really isn't anything that any of us can say that can take away the pain but our words can make you feel better. Just know that we are all here to support you.

This is going to be a long tough week. You are strong Kek and an inspiration to many of us.

Kylie
xoxo

Michelle said...

Your Dad sounded like a lovely man. You will be in my thoughts this week.

Enjoy that Scotch!

Sue aka Clarkie said...

It's nice to look back and remember the good and not so good times, you are a great story teller and I'm sure you got that from your dad. I felt like I was in the room watching your story unfold.

Your in my thoughts

Sandra said...

Kek,
Parting is never easy - there's no good way to go - my dad was killed in a car accident just before I turned 21... I often wonder what it would be like to have him around now...
Thanks for sharing those lovely stories, I imagine he would have touched many lives during his time at the nursing home.
xxx

Cherub said...

Beautiful and sad at the same time. Thinking of you.
Claire x

Debstar said...

You had me all teary too. It brought back a lot of memories. My grandma was in a nursing home with dementia too, though unfortunately she had no illusions about it being a holiday resort. I cried every time I went to see her.

My girls were really little back then & I would dress them up in their fairy costumes and they would dance around the room for her and all the other oldies there and I hoped that for just a little while the girls brought some joy to their lives.

I know it's going to be a rough week for you. Hang onto those good memories. *Hugs*

linda said...

I've just caught up with what has happened Kerryn- my sincere condolences. Your dad sounded like a lovely man and it's good to have those memories and even the funny ones in the dementia years. My thoughts are with you

SeLiNa said...

What a lovely memoir you wrote :) I'm sure your dad is enjoying his new 'holiday' and looking down on you with love.
xx

paythepiper.wordpress.com said...

Just caught up with my blog reading and found out about your dad. I am so sorry. Your memoir is a lovely tribute to his life and your relationship; I hope you can find comfort in these memories.

My thoughts are with you.

Esme said...

Kerryn, that was such a beautiful post, made me quite teary. Dementia is such an awful thing. Thinking of you this week. Erika

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