I am standing in the kitchen of my childhood home, a comforting place to be, with my dad and he turns to look at me and asks, “So, do you work here too?”
My dad was looking at me and didn’t know who I was! I’ve always been a Daddy’s Girl. A bit of a tomboy who would spend time in the garage handing Dad tools while he was repairing one of our cars or doing work on someone else’s. I would spend comfortable Sunday afternoons curled up on the couch while he read his book and I read mine, stopping occasionally to discuss what we were reading. We would rough house or enjoy watching M*A*S*H and Star Trek (the original).
Now, he didn’t know who I was. I was a stranger to this man. This is such a heart breaking moment that I cannot express it properly in words, but I know that every other caregiver out there who’s faced this same situation can relate and know exactly how I felt.
This is a part of the grieving process of dementia. As the disease progresses we are robbed of the essence of someone we love and it hurts. We are forced to take on a new role with our loved one, the role of caring stranger.
Several months after this occurred, I was sitting in a room with my youngest sister and her son relating a story to him about his mom when she was a baby. This story involved our dad and his interactions with my sister. While I was telling the story Dad walked into the room and proceeded to finish the story. My sister and I just looked at each other in awe! Here was the dad we remembered.
That was when we learned to enjoy and relish the golden moments of memory. Those precious moments where our loved one is who we remember, they remember our stories and our names. Whenever I would get sad about what had been taken by Dad’s disease, I would take a moment and remember those times when the essence of my dad came shining through and smile.