Monday, August 16, 2010


For a while, my father was in an amiable stage. He seemed to enjoy our visits. We walked with him outside. We read Curious George and National Geographic magazines together. We took rides in the car. It was a good stage.

But it's over.

I arrived early and peered through the glass panel in the security door. I saw him immediately, walking the length of the ward. At each half door, he stopped and tried the handle, shaking, twisting, trying to wrench the door open. After a time, he moved on, walking jerkily like a zombie from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

I stepped inside and pulled the door closed behind me. He looked right at me but didn't see me. I was about to approach him when Reggie, one of the day aides, touched my arm. "Don't maybe interrupt him." His voice was gentle. "He is uneasy all the time. Better to let him fuss for now." Fuss. That was a good description of my father's behavior.

I moved to the key panel, feeling the panic rise as always. What was the code? I punched the numbers, stifling a sob: I didn't get to kiss him! I didn't even get to say my favorite words of all - "Hi Dad."

The unlock tone sounded and I saw my father move with sudden focus. He crouched, lowered his right shoulder, tucked his chin, and sent out a singular jab with his right fist. Like a boxer, I thought, staring. Reggie moved quickly, but could not escape the fist completely. It caught him on the back, just under his ribs. I slipped out, securing the door.

This stage is going to be hard. This stage demands that he be left alone, cut off from us, inside that ward, with only the sounds of dementia to keep him company.

Sometimes I think I will not survive the sadness.

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