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.