This past February, we made the decision to find a care facility for my mother and father to go into. A place where they could have help with the housekeeping that my mother could no longer keep track of doing and that my father was too worn and tired to care about. Someplace they both could find people to help them cope with this disease that has ravaged our family.
Then early this summer, we moved my mother into a separate section of the facility so that she could get expert care. My father could no longer watch her constantly, especially when she refused to sleep and tried to leave the apartment at night. There is no reasoning with this disease, but he tried. Dear God, how he tried to talk her into being okay.
He’s alone now, my father, and my heart breaks for him every time we talk on the phone. He’s so lonely without her, but as much as he might have wished to, keeping her with him was beyond his ability. They don't talk anymore . When he visits her in the Memory Unit, they watch TV because she can’t keep a thought in mind long enough to finish a sentence. He takes her hand and leads her outside to enjoy the sun in the small garden area that’s tucked inside the complex, a safe spot where she can’t wander away. They sit in silence for a while more and then he sees her back to her room and goes home to his empty apartment. This is his life now, these quiet moments with her and a trip to see a movie once in a while.
My mother fell and hit her head a couple weeks ago while he was at the theater. She lost her balance and went down hard, so she was taken to the emergency room. We couldn’t find my father for several hours. He feels guilty that Mom was at the hospital for all that time alone. It took some talking to convince him that he deserved some enjoyment, that he had not abandoned her because he was gone when it happened.
I think that somewhere inside, he still believed that maybe there was some hope. That if he could just reach her, she would turn a corner, or that some new medication would appear to undo what has already been done. I can’t blame him. I’ve been guilty of that myself, even though I know there is no cure.
But I think he's finally stopped hoping now, because last week, her caregivers told him they want to move her into the last unit in this process of brain degeneration. It’s a place where she can get more one-on-one care, where people will do for her the routine things she has been doing for a lifetime – dressing, eating, bathing – but now cannot remember how to do, or that she is even supposed to do them.
He got choked up when he told me about it. I’d never seen or heard my father cry before. Not ever. The sound of his strangled voice knifes through my heart every time I remember it. It is the sound of desolation, of final acceptance in the battle to fight and deny the unacceptable.
She will not be coming back.