Change Is Never Easy; You Fight To Hold On & You Fight To Let Go

Do you remember the scene in “Great Exotic Marigold Hotel” where Judi Dench’s recently widowed character was speaking with her broadband service provider and the call centre representative insisted on speaking only with the account holder? I have lived that scripted conversation with so many utility providers over the past few weeks resulting in endless calls, form filling and emails.There is no flexibility within their scripted conversations which enable them to deal with people struggling with huge emotional loss

This journey has been a big learning curve for me in so many ways I never thought it would be as hard for many different reasons; the heart-breaking handwritten notes that my Dad had left for me amongst his jumpers many still unworn, preferring instead to live in his gardening clothes. insisting that when he’d gone that the local charity shop take his old clothes “but no pick & choosing mind you”. The many clippings torn carelessly from gardening magazines and newspapers to be stored for later use. The pocket diaries where he had meticulously recorded the weather and his gardening schedule every day.

Dementia or Alzheimer’s is a hateful creature which creeps in and suddenly steals your familiar and beloved relative away replacing them with a complete stranger who no longer has the same interests or in some cases preferences. An acquaintance of mine dismissively suggested that caring for an adult with reduced mental capacity is no different from looking after a small child. I disagree with that entirely; an adult has a lifetime of financial responsibilities, cupboards full of memories, and a devastated family who overnight have lost a beloved relative. I have met some amazing people on this journey who have been like bottled sunshine on the rainiest of days but many others not so much.

Having reluctantly spent the weekend sorting through the old man’s treasured possessions which are little more than tatty junk, I have been reduced to tears by the discovery of my first school note-book, his communion medal, my niece’s first crudely written & misspelled love letter. What price can you put on a pocketful of memories precious only to the one who saved them? In a rare moment of clarity when I told my Dad I had found them he said “I know they’re not much but they meant a lot to me though”.

Irrespective of what the future may hold and how many cavalier individuals touch our lives, my old Dad will always be right there with me in the scent of wild garlic and Queen Anne’s lace rustling on a gentle spring breeze, a warm hand in mine on a cold winter’s day, the smell of wet earth after a summer shower but above all he will always be my very first hero.

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13 thoughts on “Change Is Never Easy; You Fight To Hold On & You Fight To Let Go

  1. My heart weeps with you Tink. You’ll live for those brief moments when he’s there and hold your self together during the times he’s not, until you’re alone and can grieve the worst kind of grief…the feelings of loosing him over and over again. I wish those who feel they know what it’s like, but obviously don’t, would just hold their tongue. I know how deeply you cherish the memories you already have of what he brought to your life and you’re still making them. I know too, those said same memories you’ve shared here will give you days of both joy and sorrow…but one day, with your tender care, and like the flowers he loves so much, what blooms in your memory garden will warm your heart, bring a smile to your lips, and you’re eyes will look up…and you’ll whisper “I love you Dad…let’s go…we have work to do”
    I love you my friend, and we’ll always be the daughters we are to the fathers they are/were…if you ever need me….xoxo

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  2. Those brief and rare moments of lucidity are so precious. I know that my sister and I were always so happy to be there when mom suddenly became the mom we remembered. I really feel for your sadness. Now our mom is gone, I remember the really good times we had and am so grateful that we had her with us for so long. *hugs* Sylvia xx

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  3. I lost my Dad when he was the same age as I am now. I often say that when one is dealing with grief and loss it is made worse by all the paperwork that comes afterward. The gift of taking the burden of it all off my mother was something that I could give. It made me feel like I was doing something. Even now almost 24 years later I’m so grateful I was able to do it. Know that this too shall pass. It gets better but not always easier.

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  4. The picture of your dad in the garden with his dog is priceless. What a handsome man. It’s dang shame that he has the horrible brain disease. I know all those notes are now very special to you and that you’ll find a special place to keep them.

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  5. Hi Dallas, I am so sorry to hear that the alzheimer slowly is taking over your dad. And what you write so hit the spot for me; I remember that exact feeling from my grandmother when she turned into someone I could not relate to at all anymore. This disease sucks. Courage my friend, and may there be many moments of clarity 🙂

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  6. My dear friend, there will be other moments. There will be minutes, sometimes many minutes where your beloved father will emerge from the fog. Then there will be other minutes where someone you never met, someone from before you will be there and you will enjoy those too. There will be other minutes, they will be terrible and tragic, I wish I could give you some special path through them.

    I spent the last year with my much loved father trying to find those moments of clarity to hang on too. They were precious, few and worth it.

    I wish I could give you a shoulder to lean on and hug to lean in to. Know that from across the sea, you are in my thoughts.

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  7. You write so tenderly and bring tears along with bittersweet memories of our own. As for dealing with the bureaucrats. Sometimes I wished that hell reserved a very special place for those petty tyrants apparently missing a heart. I suppose I was lucky that I could pretend to be my mom on the phone at times and that her signature had been so shaky for several years that I could forge it with ease. Much harder for you to pull those little tricks off I’m afraid. As someone commented before me: this disease really does suck!
    Warm, sweet hugs to you, my friend.

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  8. Dallas,

    You and your family are very much in my thoughts and prayers.

    Your acquaintance couldn’t be more wrong. Caring for an alzheimer/dementia parent is like playing the card game memory, but with an infinite number of cards that are marked — small child, teenager, adult, senior, parent, stranger, new friend, enemy, lover, witty, angry, engaged, self-absorbed, rebellious, obsessive, compulsive, independent, dependent, generous, intuitive, childhood, dating, parenting, working, 5 years ago, 30 years ago, 70 years ago, now, past, future… And someone keeps moving the cards around.

    My MIL passed away in Oct. She was legally blind for 20 years so we had already taken over financials of bill paying, ect. But the blindness added another layer. We were direct caregivers for a month or so at a time. It is all mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting, but the truly hardest part was the miss-associated anger. For some one who was strong-willed, but mostly content and happy, the anger …

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