By the time that this gets posted I will be on a plane to Colorado to climb Pikes Peak. Just one of the many adventures that run through my blood, and hit my brain, that need to be exercised. It's the same blood that ran through my dad. It's because of him that I have this insatiable drive for excitement and challenge. He was a thrill seeker, a dare-devil, a go-getter at any cost.
When he first started going down hill, I didn't have a clue about Alzheimer's Disease, but a challenge was presented to care for him, and without a thought I packed up and moved to Florida to be in the game. I really don't know why I did it, I had just graduated from college and I guess I wasn't really thinking. I just did it. Had I thought it through, read some medical journals, thought about my career, my future, my fiancé, myself...I would never have done it. There are a few times in my life, that in retrospect I am grateful that I just reacted and didn't weigh out the consequences.
Walking into his decline, and my mothers pain makes the thought of climbing Pikes Peak as steep as the Florida Trail. None of us had a clue what to do, so we winged it. That is what my dad would have done. And then he would pour himself a drink and smile and do what needed to be done. Period. We skipped the drink, but we read books, we went to support groups, we wrote out questions for the real specialists, we made up schedules, we cried, we laughed our butts off and many times I personally wanted to bang my head against the wall. Hard.
The beginning was so confusing. Looking back, I must have really had God guiding me because nothing scared me or turned me off or made me really want to quit. I just kept moving forward as he kept moving backward. Each backward shift caused us fear, sadness, initial chaos and pain.
First he forgot where he lived, then he forget my name, then he started talking to himself in the mirror thinking it was some old stranger reflecting back at him, then he started falling, then he started to forget what he was supposed to do in the bathroom, then he started fighting with the guy in the mirror and talking to the people on the TV, then he needed help in the shower, then we had to wallpaper every mirror in the house to get rid of the guy in the mirror who wouldn't leave my dad alone, then he couldn't walk, then he couldn't talk, then he was just quiet in his wheelchair and now he is in Heaven. And his bride of thousand years misses him so much. And that is the biggest rub in all of this. To have had to watch her, watch him melt into eternity.
My dad and I were never close. I was the youngest and by the time I came along he had seen it all and done it all, but I know at the time that he gave me his very best. I don't remember any long conversations or sitting on his knee or holding his hand growing up...That all changed though when he got AD. We sat for hours holding hands and we had long, long conversations that made sense to absolutely nobody but us.. We went everywhere together. He thought I was funny and he really was funny. We laughed together at really stupid things. We teased eahother. He smiled at me. I sensed his love and appreciation. He didn't know who I was, but he liked me most of the time. He would pat on the seat beside him on the couch for me to sit by him, neither of us had time for that when I was growing up. But with nothing but time on our hands during his illness, we had days, and weeks and months, even years to make up for the lost years. I guess we made up for my lost years during his lost years. God has a way of always working things out, doesn't he? When we let him?
It was a hard time of life for all of us, but also a time of tremendous healing.
Jackie McNally Seymour