by P.S. Gifford
Alzheimer’s and dementia are cruel things to suffer from and, I must add, being a caregiver you must assume nothing- as everyday offers new challenges. At two this morning I literally cried. My father was calling for his mother- and asking where she was. But that wasn’t that generated those tears. What impacted so dramatically was the fact he was talking like a little boy. Not just his choice of words but the tone, pitch and feeling in his voice. Even the expression on his face was soft and almost angelic. When he arrived in the front room to discover me watching television his brain began deciphering who I was for the pieces no longer seemed to fit. He looked puzzled at first but soon reality seemed to gradually ease back and he stated, perhaps in an all to matter-of fact tone, “She is dead isn’t she?” I got him back to bed, comforted, and then retired myself. As I lay there in search for sleep I kept reliving those surreal few minutes. For a time he genuinely was, or believed himself to be, seven years old once more and carried all the innocence of that age with him, it was an emotional transition to witness. A few hours later my dad was yelling at my bed side. As I suddenly awake in a panic he told me this time he had been stuck outside in a lot of water with numerous other folks- and everyone was screaming. As I blinked the remnants of sleep away he added that he had been stuck there all day and had been screaming for my help for hours, and he only just escaped. He wanted me to go and take a look as he did not think I believed him. I eased myself from the sanctuary of my covers, and my dogs did not even bother to stir. The patio was, naturally, just how it always is at five in the morning. “No not that back door- that one,” he said pointing at his bedroom door. I went in, and again all was as it should be. “They have all gone,” my dad said as I turned on the light. “How did that happen?” I got him back into bed and watched him fall asleep. Soon he was snoring deeply and looked at peace. I too then went to bed. As it happened I endured an intense nightmare- in fact I am still shaky as I write. But when I awoke it took me the longest time for me to stop believing the wacky far-fetched events I dreamt about did not actually happen. My dream also encompassed an entire day- on about three hours of deep sleep. I shall not divulge the details as many friends and family played key characters. I will say that lies and betrayal seemed to be the prevailing theme and I relived experiences, albeit it in different circumstances, that make my heart break still to this very day. My own son was around none years old for instance- and we cried as we saw each other and hugged. Now my dad sleeps peacefully in his chair as I write this and attempt to pull myself together and consume cup after cup of black coffee. It is a reminder that the body and mind has a hard time distinguishing from dreams from reality.