Friday, January 26, 2007

Awake, and other matters


I could say "and that's all I have to say about that" because the first word sums up the experience, but on the other hand what else have I to do until the hot chocolate is ready? I'd been dreaming about my parents, being on holiday with them in a Manhattan turned third-world village; the dream's turning sour woke me.

One of these days I must gather my courage and tell you about my father. Why not now, you ask? All right, I will. I can always just delete this post.

(The regular reader from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon should please stop reading now! Talk to the regular reader in Regina before continuing.)

My father is losing his memory (that's what that series of posts in the Autumn was about). He tells the same tale several times; asks a question twice within an hour; comes into the kitchen to read us an unusual name out of the obituaries, wondering where he's heard it before, not remembering that he read the same obituary to us that morning. If he gets separated from my mother downtown, he will start walking off in a random direction. Mom chases breathlessly after him, when she catches up he blithely says "I'd have come back"—but neither she nor I believe that he would then know from whence he started.

I am horrified by his condition, what it implies for him and for my mother who must cope with this. He has turned very pedantic and exacting, querying every statement and challenging every statistic. Nobody is allowed to say "nobody is allowed"—"what, not anyone at all? who does the forbidding?" I thought at first that he was just getting vicious in his old age, as dogs do, but I think that it's related to the memory loss. He really doesn't know, he really is uncertain whether what we are saying is factual truth or poetic license, and his challenge is meant to reassure himself that he has interpreted it correctly.

Now fast-forward to Monday morning (this is the "more, very different" that I teased you with then). Lying in bed I heard a key scratching at my door and thought, "Mrs. Neighbour is on the wrong floor again," she has mistaken my door for her own at least once a year for the last twelve years; since I was still in bed, I ignored it. A half-hour later, dressed but not yet breakfasted, I heard tears and lamentations coming from the staircase: Mrs. N was standing at the elevator crying—wailing—as a new neighbour from upstairs tried to discover what was wrong. I went out and spoke to them, she explained: "I can't find my son's apartment! I don't know where he is, my keys won't open any of these doors. I want to go home but I don't know where it is." She had been up and down the whole building, trying every door, but (I infer) had got muddled with the keyring and had tried her key in Neighbour's door and then his key in her own.

I took her up to her own apartment, and opened the door with her key. She got excited and barged past me into her own apartment, calling "N, are you here?" She went into her own bedroom, waking her husband of nearly sixty years, and asked him "Are you N?" (In fairness, it was quite dark and she did think that she was in N's apartment.) Mr. N got up, I explained the situation to him with some difficulty (he thought that I wanted to get into N's apartment), then he explained to me that Mrs. N has senile dementia and is going rapidly downhill. Poor Mrs. N, what a terrible illness; I can't get the image of her standing before her son's door and not knowing where he lives out of my mind. Mr. N can hardly walk and N is a depressive alcoholic; Mrs. N has taken care of them both. Which of them will now take care of whom?

Fast-forward again to this evening (Thursday) and an e-mail from my mother, saying that Dad had a small stroke three weeks ago (!) Full results of the tests are due in two weeks, but he is apparently in good shape other than being blind in one eye having some pain and difficulty reading (my hysterical over-interpretation, sorry).

This turns me into a six-year-old: I don't want any of this to be true, I want all of these problems just to go away.

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Blogger Savtadotty said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. Your being so far away doesn't make it easier to bear, but your regular phone and e-mail contact will help your mother (and you) immensely. Yay Internet!

January 26, 2007 at 8:09:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Anonymous liquicat said...

oh udge! i feel for you. senility is on of the most frightening things i can imagine. sending you strength...

January 26, 2007 at 9:19:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Jean said...

Hard stuff, evoked with painful vividness. Maybe this is the hardest thing of all, harder than any illness of the rest of the body. The terrible cost of increased longevity (and maybe other things in our horrible, polluted world, who knows). Sorry, didn't mean to make you feel worse, but to send support and sympathy. And to say your writing has been terrific lately.

January 26, 2007 at 12:47:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Antonia said...

sorry to hear this, udge. Hope he is soon better.

January 26, 2007 at 4:31:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger rb said...


January 26, 2007 at 9:03:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Anonymous May said...

I read this after reading the post about your team giving up the competition. It is a really sad matter to witness the decadence of a person who once was our hero and our defender. I guess that you're sorry for him and for yourself too - things won't go back to the way they were a few decades ago. Your parents would be a bit happier if they knew how much you care for them.

January 26, 2007 at 9:21:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Anonymous arevik said...

This is so sad to lose a person who is still alive, but whom illness has made somebody completely different... it seems impossible to bring past and present together... but you have the memories of your father in his full strength, and these will stay with you forever. I wish you a lot of courage for the time to come.

January 27, 2007 at 12:53:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Udge said...

Thank you all for the kind words and encouragement, they are much appreciated. I'll say more when I can (both in terms of having hard information and also of not choking up).

January 27, 2007 at 1:00:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger brooksba said...

I'll be thinking of you and your family.

January 30, 2007 at 7:58:00 a.m. GMT+1  

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