I'm gearing up to visit my father. In order to go into the dementia ward, I have to prepare myself for what I might see. Best case: he's sitting quietly or walking in the main room with the other residents. Worst case: well, it's hard to pick a single scenario. Once, I arrived to find him in a rage hoisting a heavy upholstered chair over his head, intending to throw it through the window. Another time, I found him pinned to the wall, with three security guards jostling to control his flailing fists. At the other extreme, I'm exceedingly distressed when he is slouched in a chair, near catatonic, drooling and non responsive, numb from the anti-agitation medication that he undoubtedly required. There are so many hideous visuals: images that torment me during the night so that my jaw aches when I wake from clenching my teeth.
I start by coaching myself: Today may be different. Today my father might smile upon my arrival and offer me his hand. "Nice to meet you," he'll say. And I'll shake his hand and introduce myself.
I hope today is that kind of day.