Music reference: Click here to listen to Buddy Holly, The Crickets: That’ll be the Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xuE9HkBYIs
Picture Details: Dad with his customized 1948 Plymouth Coupe, San Antonio, Texas, June 1954
Last week, Dad referenced me in a conversation, while I was near, and called me by my Mom’s name. This is a new thing. It only happened twice so far. He continued talking to my husband, trying to get out the entire story. As he continued, he self-corrected and stated that he realized he had said RoseAnne’ but that was wrong because RoseAnne was his daughter, and that RoseMarie was actually his wife. I took this as a good sign: that he was able to immediately realize something was not correct in his story, and that he was able to correct it in just another moment or two. But the fact that it is happening at all makes me assume we are approaching a new ‘stage’ in this disease.
I have had a couple episodes where I was completely overcome with grief at the thought of some future moment when Dad looks at me and doesn’t know who I am. I have been researching for almost three years now in order to learn and understand all I can in order to serve him well and do the best I can with him, therefore I know that there will be a day when he won’t know who I am in this work, or who I am in relationship to him. I keep trying to push it out of my mind and not deal with it, why should I keep thinking about his and crying about it when it is not something I have to deal with today? I trust that when it does happen, I will deal with it as best I can perhaps badly, but hopefully gracefully.
These recently little ‘hiccups’ of Dad’s memory of mixing me with his ex-wife (my mom) just keep pushing me into a panic that the ‘horrible day’ is coming sooner than later, and I’m not ready. On that day, it will be the day my “Real Dad” dies and I’ll only have “Dementia Dad” left.
I have been paying attention to Dad’s stories that he tells again and again. I noticed that his stories are no longer from the 1990s. Together we slowly moved BACK IN TIME to the 1980s briefly, then flashed through 70s and 60s. He was solidly in the 50’s for quite a while. Those were his ‘salad days’. Dad was a handsome Jimmy Dean look alike (in my opinion). There are photos of him posed in front of a cool car, with his cowlick blond hair, sparkly blue eyes, hand in a pocket, t-shirt sleeve rolled up to hold his pack of cigs. Such a cool dude. Why can’t we look like our 20’s forever? I enjoyed hearing about his wild days (which weren’t really so wild, he was very diligent, self-regulated and the hardest worker I have ever known). Now I’m hearing stories he didn’t share when I was young and I am loving it. He probably didn’t share them because there are a lot of Car and Girlfriend stories (Oh my, Dorothy in Texas where are you now? Dad wants to say hi and explore what ‘might have been’ if he stayed in Texas with you!) which probably wouldn’t have worked out well with my Mom in the room—hahaha. I wish I could write them down, but I’m so pressed for time with everything I’m doing to run my life and care for his, that this is just a wish for now.
Recently I feel we passed another ‘line in the sand’ in the disease progression. Some details from a solid classic story of the 90’s was inserted and convoluted with details from a solid classic story of the 50’s. Dad said it happened ‘some time last week, he can’t remember where’. All of a sudden, his timeline has shaken loose from its anchor and the story is all mixed up now.
It is very much like my son’s complex Lego structures of yore. When it was time to put them away, we had to break the carefully built structure, trying for individual pieces, but never 100% successful. Various size chunks that still had some cohesiveness mingled amidst thousands of singular pieces, but they make no sense without being connected to their neighbors. They land in a colorful textured jumble, all mixed up, some pieces still connected in clumps, but not near their partners. It’s no longer a beautiful tall strong rainbow structure, now it is just a jumbled mess of sprinkles in the bottom of the rubber tote.
I can only imagine that is what is happening with dad’s wonderful life –decades of meaningful experiences, cars, career, his relationships are breaking into pieces that don’t make sense to anyone and are jumbled in the bottom of his soul. Like one of my favorite musicians, Buddy Holly sang:
Well, that'll be the day, when you say goodbye Yes, that'll be the day, when you make me cry You say you're gonna leave, you know it's a lie 'Cause that'll be the day when I die
SUPPORTING INFORMATION TO THIS POST
Music reference: Click here to listen to Buddy Holly, The Crickets That’ll be the Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xuE9HkBYIs
Full Lyrics here: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/buddyholly/thatllbetheday.html
DEFINITION: "Salad days" is a Shakespearean idiomatic expression meaning a youthful time, accompanied by the inexperience, enthusiasm, idealism, innocence, or indiscretion that one associates with a young person. A more modern use, especially in the United States, refers to a heyday, a period when somebody was at the peak of their abilities—not necessarily in that person's youth. The quote "salad days" is from the Shakespearean play Antony and Cleopatra and is spoken in Act 1, Scene 5, by Cleopatra.
All three links below are to articles found online Psychology Today by Andrew E. Budson, MD. Managing Your Memory
1. This article in Psychology Today gives a good clear understanding of the difference of Hallucinations, illusions and False memories. It is important to have clear words for what is happening in order to understand it and come up with a reaction or solution. It also comes up with several answers to a ‘why’ explanation, and sometimes it is from more than one reason. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/managing-your-memory/201908/why-do-hallucinations-occur-in-dementia?fbclid=IwAR16hrVYwTPI3D32YAYNBxGAA1esuBqvGrONQ-4vD3zsII6-8Deu5afFim0
2. The next article deals with the unfortunate day when you are lost from connections in your loved ones mind and they don’t know who you are.
3. This article covers : “what happens to memory in the moderate to severe stage of dementia.” My dad recently seems anxious and asks where I am whenever he can’t see me. I could say directly to him, Dad, I’m going to my room to read for a little, OK?” and he says “Ok, have fun!” I say “Ok, see you in a little bit”. Then 5 minutes later, he is walking around calling my name, looking for me. This article touches on that also.