Dementia and Holiday Reminders

nutcrackersTo get ready to trim our tree, we unpacked the ornaments and table decorations and I was unexpectedly reminded of the loss of my father. The grief is much softer now, but arrives at the most unexpected moments.  Two years ago at Christmas, my Dad added funny notes to my nutcracker candles. I cried when I opened them last Christmas because I had already forgotten about his notes. Last year was the first Christmas without him. I’m wondering as I pull them out this year if I can shellac the notes in place so they will now be a permanent fixture to our holiday decorations.

Holidays are always a challenge and my memories are filled with sad and funny stories–some I shared–and others I didn’t dare mention. We have had some doozies. At first, I’m surprised that I can’t find a post about the year I had to go find my parents who got lost driving to my house–something they had done hundreds of times. I realize that this happened a few months before I started blogging about my journey (it was November 2011). When they didn’t arrive for Thanksgiving dinner, we were worried. My husband worked to save the meal from ruin while I just worried. An hour after they were to arrive I get a call from someone telling me my parents are on their way. They were lost in his neighborhood and he redirected them toward our house.

An hour later, my parents call me from a pay phone and give me their address so I can come get them. They were 20 miles away and scared. I have them follow me home and no one mentions them being late. I don’t bother to ask why they didn’t have the cell-phone with them, my Dad just never got the habit of carrying a phone around with him. I knew it was another alarming signal that they should be changing their lifestyle that they would soon forget. This happened at least seven months before their licenses were revoked.  It’s scary to realize how many people, including themselves they jeopardized driving. There are many sudden decisions that need to be made behind the wheel.

Two years after this happened and my parents were required to move into Assisted Living and we were packing up my parent’s apartment, I found a bill for over $2,500 in repairs for my Mom’s car. I didn’t press my Mom when she told me she no longer wanted to drive a few years earlier. This bill made it clear that something pretty major had occurred and they got the car repaired without breathing a word of it to any of their children.

Dementia changes not just the person it afflicts, but all of the loved ones they are surrounded by. As hard as this journey has been, I’m thankful for all that my parent’s have given me, and all that this journey has taught me. The nutcrackers will forever remind me and be a treasured holiday decoration. Changed.