Friday, September 21, 2012

World Alzheimer's Day

Today is World Alzheimer's Day, and once again I'm celebrating the special person in my life who is afflicted with this devastating disease, my beloved father, Stanley Darer.

Since I wrote about Dad last year on World Alzheimer's Day, his condition has deteriorated somewhat, both physically and mentally. He can't walk as well as he used to, and sometimes has to use a walker, although he doesn't like to. When I visit, I hold his hand. His confusion has definitely increased. It seems to go down in steps, plateau for a while, then deteriorate a bit more. The Awesome Boyfriend asked me if I thought Dad still knew I was his daughter. I said, "No, I don't think so. But his face still lights up when he sees me, and he definitely knows I'm someone who loves him and who he loves."

And deep inside, he still worries about me. I've often told my kids about how difficult it was for me growing up because my dad had the double standard common to his generation between his male and female offspring. It was a source of tremendous resentment and frustration as a teenager.

I still remember exactly where I standing as a young woman in my 20's, working on Wall St and putting myself through business school at night for my MBA in Finance, when my dad told me: "I won't relax till you're married and have a man looking after you."

I was speechless for a moment, thinking of how I'd always worked so hard to prove myself, how I had to work twice as hard as a guy to get credit, deal with sexism constantly, and went ballistic. "Who's looking after me now?!" I shouted.

The other day when I visited Dad, we were sitting on a bench holding hands and he asked me a question he quite often does when I visit: "So are you married?"

These days, the question doesn't make me ballistic. I smile, and explain that I was married, I got divorced, but I have a mensch of a boyfriend that I've been with for six years. Dad smiles, and I know that somewhere, deep inside, it makes him feel better to think I have "a man looking after me."

And I smile, instead of going ballistic, because I know that thought makes him relaxed and happy.

On Rosh Hashanah, I asked The Awesome Boyfriend to come with me to visit, so Dad could see living proof of my "man". Because we'd gone to services, we went in the afternoon, and Dad tends to be more confused then. AB and I think Dad thought the AB was my son, because he kept commenting on how much taller AB was than the last time he'd visited.

We decided to take Dad for a walk in the garden because he seemed really confused and we thought the fresh air and exercise might do him good. On the way outside, we passed some of his friends who were gathered round the TV watching The Sound of Music. And he introduced me to one of the other seniors as HIS CHILD. I almost started crying - because he REMEMBERED. He doesn't remember my name, but he remembered that I was his daughter, at least for that moment, and it meant the world to me.

Here's Dad discussing New Year's Resolutions with Benny

On September 30th, my mother and I are participating in the Walk to End Alzheimers. If you are able to donate to help us reach our fundraising goal, to help find a cure for this horrible disease.




  1. Thanks so much for this post, Sarah. It made me tear up a bit--I'm on the very beginning of the journey of having a parent with Alzheimer's. My mom's mom had it, and even though no one is quite willing to use the "A" word yet, we all know Mom is showing signs.

    This is a lovely, heartfelt post. My thoughts to both you and your dad. I made a donation to sponsor your walk in honor of my grandma. Thanks for putting this out there.

    1. I just sent you a thank you for your donation, Jessica.My post last year is about that the time when we all were worried about Dad but no one wanted to name it. It's a really difficult time, but it was actually a relief to everyone to get it out in the open, and I truly believe getting Dad on Aricept gave us a little more time of him being more with it so my kids knew him more as he was than as he is now, which is precious and priceless time. If you ever want to email me, my email is on my website. It definitely helps to have a support group. We also have a strong family history on my dad's side. The one thing that enabled us to do was to plan for this. My brother and I were paying into a long-term care policy for my parents for over a decade (fortunately, my brother was able to pick up my slack when I was going through the divorce and struggling financially) so when it came time to move Dad to assisted living it was covered and Mom wasn't at risk financially. The scary thing about the family history though, is that every time I forget something, I'm convinced that it's my genetic destiny coming to claim me. It can be kind of crazy making!

  2. My house mate David, just lost his mother who had been suffering with Alzhiemers. For some 5 years he had only known him as "that man". The day before she passed, she remember him and his name in a phone call - that was a gift beyond compare...Awful disease.

    1. I'm so glad he had that gift of remembrance. My dad went through a phase right before we put him in assisted living where he thought my brother was "another man" and even worse, was having an affair with my mother. It was awful.

      Some day, when I have enough distance from this, I plan to write a tragicomic novel about some of the stuff that has happened on this journey. Right now I'm too close to it. But I'm storing the experiences away, because there are times when things happen that are deeply sad but at the same time kind of hilarious. You can either cry or laugh and I try to laugh because it's hard enough to get through this otherwise.