My father was reading Time magazine the other day.
“Can you read the date of this?” he asked me when I came in the room.
I squinted and read, “July 17, 2000.”
“So it’s current,” he said.
“No, Dad,” I told him. “This is 2017.”
“Well, it’s pretty current,” he said, “you know — it’s in our lifetime.”
I shook my head, not sure how to respond to that. The world has changed so much.
When that issue of Time came out, airplanes hadn’t flown into buildings. Airport security wasn’t a thing. Donald Trump wouldn’t be firing would-be apprentices for 3 1/2 more years and I doubt anyone would have imagined him becoming our 45th president. The first iPhone wouldn’t be released for 7 more years.
2000 was a lifetime ago. We had just gotten over the worries of Y2K. Mary was baby and Laurel not even imagined.
“So it’s current,” he said again.
“It’s in our lifetime,” I conceded, and went back to what I had been doing.
Later, he found me in the kitchen where I was prepping dinner. He was still holding that old issue of Time magazine.
“This is fascinating,” he said. “I’m reading an article about Alzheimer’s.”
It was, in fact, the cover story for the issue.
“I think I may have Alzheimer’s,” he said. He looked at me and paused before asking, “Do you think I have it?”
I stopped shredding cheese and turned to face him. “Well,” I said slowly, “you do have trouble remembering things.”
“That’s right,” he said. “I feel like my brain is squashed.”
That’s a description he has used a number of times. Rotten fruit and roadkill always come to mind when he says it – not a pleasant picture.
I looked at the cover of the magazine which compared the brain of an Alzheimer’s sufferer with a normal brain. His description may be more right than he knows.
I didn’t know what to say to him. Silence settled over us as we both stood in the kitchen.
He leaned on his walker, and finally said, “It was interesting to read.”
Interesting. Not sad. Not heart-wrenching. Not hand-wringing. Just interesting.
A dispassionate diagnosis.
And life goes on.
Every night I hear him whistling as he gets ready for bed. Sometimes he even sings.
O Danny boy —
The pipes, the pipes are calling.
From glen to glen and down the mountain side.
The summer’s gone, and all the roses falling,
It’s you, it’s you must go and I must bide.
It’s such a sad song. My heart aches a little.
But he seems so happy. I can’t ask for more.
8 thoughts on “Self-diagnosis”
That song is my son’s high school tune. I’ll think of your dad everytime i hear that now!
I don’t know on whom it is harder – the patient or his family.
He seems to take it all in stride. But then, he may have already forgotten the diagnosis and its prognosis.
That was my father’s favorite song. It is so mournful, but also beautiful and moving.
You write, because you write from your heart, a heart filled with love for your squashed-brained father with such power that I find my heart crumpling and tears falling for you. And him. And indeed all those that fell in the towers and are falling under the insanely selfish hands of your current President.
Sally, this is so heartbreakingly beautiful. Thanks for sharing your writing with the world.
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