“It happens to all of us, you know,” someone said to me when I was talking about my father’s latest foggy episode.
Yesterday morning, when my father was studying his watch, I asked him what time he had.
“Hmmm,” he said, studying the hands and the numbers, “it looks like it’s two minutes past… past… I think it’s two minutes past Tuesday.”
I texted my sister. “I have the title for the book about Dad and dementia — Two Minutes Past Tuesday.”
Funny — but so not funny. Not even remotely funny the more I think about it.
Later in the day he had essentially forgotten my oldest brother, or, at the very least, key elements of Stewart’s life.
“It happens to all of us,” this person said to me, when I told about the things my father had said. “It’ll happen to you. It’ll happen to me. It happens.”
Such a glib response made me wonder if I talk too much about my father and his struggles. I try not to.
The other day when two of my children had a discussion that devolved into nastiness, I said, “Let’s try this again. First she said this (fill in the blank), and then you responded with this (fill in the blank) — but what could have been a better response?”
We talked through possible responses that could have diffused rather than ignited the situation.
It probably won’t work. The next time, they may get after each other again, but maybe a seed has been planted. A seed with a better fruit.
Last night as I lay in bed thinking about the unhelpful response thrown my way, I wondered what I really was looking for in sharing the story of my Dad’s poor thinking. What would have been a better response?
Nobody can really fix the situation. It is what it is.
But here are a few things that may have sounded better.
My sister’s response — “Oh my.” Two words show that she feels the same dismay that I do.
“I’m sorry.” It can be a pat response, but it can also be very sincere. It shows compassion and sympathy.
“That must be so hard.” Yes, yes, it is. I appreciate when people acknowledge that.
“Is there anything I can do?” Yes, there is. You can visit him. Don’t worry about whether he’ll remember your name or not — because the visit isn’t about you. Don’t worry if there are long periods of silence while he searches for words, or if he loses his train of thought altogether. He loves having people sit with him, talk with him, and listen to the same stories (or story fragments). Don’t feel that it’s a waste of time because he may not remember. For that hour that you’re there, he’s loving it. I’m loving it, too, because he’s being fed mentally by the presence of another person.
“How are you doing?” Some days I’m not doing terribly well with all this. Thanks for asking.