When me and my brother both left the house on the same day in August 1976, a new phase began for Dad. The story says he shut both our doors, would not look at or go in our bedrooms. Supposedly cried for a week. I had no clue. He was always a busy man. He always had an agenda occupying his time, energy and attention. Working. Hunting. Getting the pump at the farm to work because he planted peach and pecans trees and they needed water. Selling used tires out of the garage to make some extra money. Building a new deck behind the place they had in Cloudcroft, NM. Going bird watching. But the story says he missed us mightily when we were gone.
The disease is beginning to take it's toll. Dad's mother, Nellie, had four sisters. Zelma, Clara, Trilva, and Nadine. All of them suffered from dementia at the end of their lives. Dad's journey down that road has begun.
He is still driving, but he now refuses to use the left turn lane. He stays in the lane next to it and turns from there. It won't be long and he will have to give up driving. When we speak on the phone, I have ceased asking him any questions for the most part, because when I do, he has to ask Mom for the answer. He simply cannot remember. He is aware that dementia is taking over. He does his very best to disguise it, but it has progressed to the point that he can no longer do that effectively. This self-made, self sufficient man, knows where he is, what he is doing only because of the presence of Mom. He cannot go to bed unless she goes too. She recently snuck out to the back yard to plant some spring flowers. She wanted a minute to herself. He discovered her 'missing' and he blew a gasket. If she isn't in his sight, right next to him, he is lost. She is his connection to a familiar reality. Without her, he does not have that connection.
They will both be 79 in July of this year, so Mom's ability to care for him will be limited because of her age and her creeping senesence. I can already see the toll it is having on her, but she is unwilling to accept help at this point. I fear she will never make the decision to get the help they need, and my brother and I will be forced to make the decision for her, for them both.
And I will be next, most likely. His mother and aunts are all gone. It is my Dad's turn right now, but I have no doubt, my turn is next.