Tuesday, September 19, 2006

That Inevitable Day

Many of you know that my father has suffered from Alzheimer's disease for years.

Recently, health care providers have added two words to this diagnosis, "end" and "stage." End-stage Alzheimer's is the clinical way of saying that Dad is dying. He has a degenerative disease for which there is no cure.

The Alzheimer's Association website explains that something called "amyloyd plaque" builds up around the outside of nerve cells in the brain, prohibiting healthy brain function. Researchers know that this material is made up of protein, but they don't know yet how it impedes normal cell activity.

Such a microscopically small thing means that my father has forgotten how to button a shirt, buckle a belt, tie a shoe. The simplest procedures of daily dress and personal hygiene have been daunting for some time now, and would long ago have been impossible to negotiate were it not for Mom's transcendent courage and patience.

But, the inevitable, long-forecast next step has finally come. Dad can no longer be cared for in his own home. We moved him to a temporary Hospice residence this weekend, and will soon place him in a residential care center.

It is hard to see this once robust man now so slumped and crumpled. No measure of stoic bravery can shield his four sons from the awful realization that dementia has robbed them of their bigger-than-life daddy.

Even Mom, who has tenderly noted every single minute graduation of this disease's progress, was not prepared to see her husband in yet this new state of reduction.

Aging ain't for sissies. Browning must have been on drugs the day he wrote that ridiculous thing, "Grow old along with me! / The best is yet to be, / The last of life, for which the first was made."

I guess denial is a fine invention as long as it works. It no longer did the trick for what I saw this weekend.


Marsha said...

I know how much you love your dad and how difficult this is for you and your family. My prayers are with you as you enter the next stage of the journey. We love you and miss you LOTS!!!
Your Friend,

lmk4jc said...

charlie,my dear brother,i too know how you love your father.your dad didnt carve those names into the table for nothing.you and your brothers are what he loved the most,and now in the time coming you will have each other and be at your mothers side.my prayers for you and your family will be for strenght and peace.linda

Clyde dishong said...


You so eloquently write of the painful process of dealing with your families journey with Alzheimer's disease. Our hearts go out to you and family for all that this entails for each of you. We saw this very same thing with Clyde's brother and his family. It is not easy to watch a strong and healthy person who is a giant to a young son, slowly deteriorate into a helpless individual unable to communicate his thoughts and feelings. In those lucid times, it seems they are "normal" if only for a short while, but quickly they return to a fog, unable to find their way. Please know you are in our prayers. Clyde and Judy

barry brake said...

robert browning on drugs!! may it never be!! those words were stingingly true, and might ring truer to you now than they did before. most people interpret the "grow old along with me; the best is yet to be" quote as some kind of touching marriage-proposal. it's in fact the opposite: a looking-forward to death, and a view of our withering bodies as the pathway to heaven, put in the mouth of an old rabbi talking to his young student.

the poem is so beautiful, and contains such truths that speak to me about your situation and your father's personality, which i feel i've glimpsed through your stories and remembrances:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith "A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!''

Poor vaunt of life indeed,
Were man but formed to feed
On joy, to solely seek and find and feast:

Then, welcome each rebuff
That turns earth's smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go!
Be our joys three-parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!

For thence,—a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks,—
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be
And was not, comforts me.

But all, the world's coarse thumb
And finger failed to plumb,
So passed in making up the main account;
All instincts immature,
All purposes unsure,
That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's amount:

Thoughts hardly to be packed
Into a narrow act,
Fancies that broke through language and escaped;
All I could never be,
All, men ignored in me,
This, I was worth to God.

amen, and amen!!

you and your whole family are in our prayers, blessed soul.

barry and catherine

Anonymous said...

Your tribute to your father was just beautiful. It gave us chills as we read it. I know it helped you to write it. The lose of a parent is never easy and you made it very comforting to hear.

All our love,
Bob and Loretta Hamilton