This is the post I hinted at before, and why I chose Alzheimer’s Scotland as the cause for my birthday fundraiser.
Not many people outside of close friends will know that when I say “dad”, I mean my stepfather. So when I say “father”, I mean my biological father. When I was 10 my parents split and divorced not long after. I stopped “access visits” a while after the split. Keeping the history private, it is enough to say that I didn’t talk to my father in ~20 years.
Situations and views of life change, so ~five years ago, I made contact with him and we met up. We then chatted on the phone and my uncle, his older brother, mentioned that he believed my father had dementia, Alzheimer’s or something. I agreed, when I spoke to my father, he’d be repeating things or asking questions again but had clarity for the most part of life when I was a kid.
The past few years have been mainly phone calls and another two meet ups in person. My father doesn’t do email or anything electronic any more. He gave them up because they were confusing for him. He is an active man, into his late seventies now and daily is out of the house and walking about his home town centre.
Then my uncle called about a year or so ago, my father had called him to say the doc had told him to stop driving and that he had dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s. I called my father, and he seemed almost blasé about it. This is the man that for all his adult life that I remember, was a driving instructor. Ironic now that a) I still hadn’t learned to drive (didn’t have the need), and b) he was now being told for his health to stop driving. “I don’t need to, I can jump on the bus if needed but I like waking and everything is here” he told me on one of my trips to see him.
We walked about town for a bit then walked back to his flat and Skype’d my uncle. They are classic brothers, my father the younger one being all annoyed his older brother (who lives and has done for 40+ years in the US) is worrying about his health. After that, we chatted about some things and for the most part he was brilliant, sharp memory, accepting of the past and not bothered about the future. He couldn’t travel without taking a bus/train and although he could stop and say hello to almost everyone we passed, his only driving option was a friend he met up with weekly for coffee that he’d known for all my life. That was May 2017.
Into 2018 the phone calls became more repetition. I didn’t mind to a point, I got to check up on him and let him know about the kids. Twice he went quiet, and I’d have to call his friend or the coffee shop I knew he volunteered at to locate him. He was always okay, just getting on with life. Which is great, he was out daily, walking about, but the frustrating part of his no mobile & no email, meant I had to catch him in the house.
A few months back, his voicemail stopped clicking in. The phone now rings out, I’ve called day and night to no avail. This worried my uncle and I since we couldn’t contact him but I managed to work out a few options to at least make sure he was still alive.
He is healthy, to a point, but not being able to immediately contact him is annoying, I have to go off second hand “oh yes, I saw him up the town today”. I haven’t directly asked anyone to say “look, your son and brother are worried, check your phone is working ya old fart”, but I’m close.
I want him to be able to live as he wants, I know we’ll catch up again some point and I’ve accepted that. Aside from the family-political angle putting distance and years between us, I wouldn’t wish Alzheimer’s or dementia on anyone.
As I mentioned before, my gran some type of dementia. In her later life in a nursing home, she’d ask “Where’s Billy? He was just out for a paper!” when I visited. I’d need to remind her that papa had died X amount of time before. “…oh yes” she’s reply, the harsh reality hitting her again of her life partner no longer being with her.
My father lives alone and, to an extent, doesn’t see anyone regularly any more. His long time friend has the Big C, which I found out on a recent call to their wife. He doesn’t volunteer at the cafe any more as his failing memory annoyed him, not being able to remember orders for tea or coffee.
I’ve just giving him a call, but as usual, it’s ringing out. Ah well, hopefully you’ll read the card and figure out why you’re phone isn’t ringing.
Happy birthday. Enjoy your wanders.