Beauty of dementia
More than 10 percent of dad’s life was spent with some level of dementia, and this is ultimately what did him in. While this disease certainly has its devastating aspects, it would be wrong to say that this significant portion of his life provided any less joy for him or those around him than his earlier life. For me, my mother, my brother, my sister and their families, it was a chance to return some of his selfless love and generosity that we had been the fortunate recipients of for our entire lives. For him, it was a chance to “live for the moment.” His past became only that portion of his life that we would remind him of, either through pictures or words. And those were, of course, primarily the happy moments.
In his later years, dad loved to go for rides in the car. If he seemed to be a little down, we could take him for a ride, maybe past his boyhood home in Trommald, to Brainerd or Aitkin, or to our own old hunting grounds. He had a big smile on his face for many of these trips, and while he may not remember where we went, or even that we went on the ride, by the time he got back into the house he did maintain that good feeling of happiness for some time afterward.
While dad could no longer answer questions about what happened in the past, he still took joy in thinking about what was to come.
“What should we do tomorrow dad?”
“I don’t know,” he’d say.
“Should we have some fun?”
“OK,” he’d say, smiling.
“Should we go for a ride?” “OK,” he’d say with an even bigger smile.
I’ll miss this part of my dad’s life and personality just as much as I will miss his pre-dementia days.