Thursday, November 22, 2012

Talking To Dementia Part 5

"Hello, Papa."
Dad had the saddest look on his face.
I took his hand and held it gently. He didn't say a word, he just stared at me with a very discouraged look.
Suddenly he said with a weak voice, "I am close to dying."
I asked "Really? How do you know?"
He replied "It is time. I'm dying. There is nothing you or anyone can do."
Tears rolled down his face as he spoke ever so softly. 

This was a different Dad. Not the Dad I knew. The Dad I knew was tough and strong, and in his illness often aggressive.  This Dad was weak, fragile, and spoke far too softly.

He let me hold his hand a little bit longer than usual. 
The first words he spoke when we got there that day kept being repeated.
After a while he started to become a little anxious. He asked, "Why are you not going? They're waiting for you."
"Who's waiting, Papa?" I asked.
"The nurses and doctors. There's a lot of work to be done. They're going to operate."
"Who are they going to operate on?"
"Me. They have to operate NOW. You need to go. They're waiting."

I hadn't heard Dad speak so many sentences in actual connection to each other in a long time. 

After he wiped a few more tears and urged us to go a few more times, we did say bye to him and left. Our time was up according to the clock (man, how I hated that clock), and it was obvious, which ever way he expressed it, he'd rather be alone that day.
I walked away feeling sad.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Talking To Dementia Part 4

"Hello, Papa."
"What happened?"
"I don't know."
Dad had a big wound on his forehead above his left eye and another one right on his nose. He was scratching his head, feeling over the wounds, wondering why there was mending tape on his face.
"Are you in pain, Papa?"
"Does your head hurt?"
"Does anything else hurt?"
It is best to ask questions that require a yes or no answer. Otherwise we might not get any answer at all.
I asked Dad's wife and the nurse what had happened. 
At the time an old classmate of mine was on shift, and I knew from being there a lot that he checked on Dad frequently. Even when he was fast asleep. Between two of those frequent checks Dad must have gotten up from his bed and fallen to the floor. There was blood on the floor and on his sheets, they said. Poor Dad. He must have been dreaming.
He kept feeling over his wounds, trying to figure out what was going on. I asked him "Did you fall, Papa?" He said "I don't know."
There was a little bit of blood left on his arm. He saw it and asked "What happened?" - "Who died?"
"Nobody died, Papa. You hurt yourself."
"Do you remember?"
There wasn't much conversation after that. It was quite visible that Dad was in pain and I hated it. As if he didn't have enough to deal with. 
As usual his wife was there, holding his hand from time to time, telling him it would be okay. He trusted her and seemed relieved each time she said it. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Talking To Dementia Part 3

"Hello, Papa. I'm Synthia."
"Hello. Mhm."
"Are you doing well today?"
"That's wonderful. I'm so glad."
Dad's wife: "Let's drink some Terere (cold tea)?" 
Dad: "Yes, let's. Would you go and set some up?"
His wife: "Sure."
Meanwhile Dad was already holding the guampa (cup) in his hands. He handed it back to his wife. She held it for a bit, then gave it back to him. 
After trying a few times, he sipped it empty and handed it back to her. 
The Terere made its rounds, and sometimes Dad would drink his, sometimes he would give it back untouched. 
He would eat the snacks his wife handed him with great pleasure. She gives him snacks not only for reasons of food intake, but also that he will get thirsty and drink. Otherwise he refuses to drink.

We had been there about 20 min. when Dad turned to my sister and said quite excitedly: "Synthia wants to come." 
I couldn't help but smile. I don't know why, but I find that even in the state he's in, Dad is kind of cute. Childlike, at times, if you will.
My sister: "Yes, in fact she is already here."
Dad: "She is?"
Sister: "Yes. She's sitting right next to you."
Me: "Hi, Papa." smiling at him.
He turns to me: "Hi!"
Right then I could see it in his eyes that yes, my Papa knew I was there. My heart skipped a beat as I held back tears of joy. For just a moment I saw MY Papa. 

The so called conversation went all over the place, sometimes it made sense to us, sometimes only to him. But he seemed content that day. It was a good day.