In 2006, my Dad and I spent a week together in the Dominican Republic, and we made many treasured memories.
In the 2 years since his diagnosis, he had adapted fairly well to the changes. He had accepted the loss of independence, to a certain degree.
After he lost his driver’s license, he bought a motorized bicycle. He only drove it a few months, and then I got the dreaded call while I was at work. While my Dad was cycling on a busy road, he lost his sense of balance and panicked. He drove into the ditch, and called me from his cellphone to ask in a frail and frightened voice, “can you come and get me?”
Thankfully, my husband was home that day and went to pick up Dad and his bike… both still in the ditch on the side of the road. My husband later told me that Dad looked like a frightened little boy sitting in a ditch when he pulled over to pick him up. Dad never cycled again.
The time we spent together in the Dominican Republic was memorable, to say the least. We were sharing a double room, and Dad’s balance has gotten so bad that he was always at risk of falling… and he now needed assistance to dress himself.
Mentally, he was still pretty sharp, but physically – he was failing fast.
It was a bit of a challenge for us to share a room together on our holiday. One morning, while Dad was showering I grabbed my book and sat on the patio to soak in the sun. After awhile I could hear the shuffle of his feet coming up behind me and then I heard, “I think I put these on backwards. Can you help me with my underwear?”
When I turned around to look, I paused, I laughed, and I said, “Dad, you can’t find the crotch, because you’re wearing MY underwear!”
That was among the many laughs we shared during that week — many of which involved him trying to put on my clothes. At least – I told myself – he was not in any physical pain. The pain for him was mentally. To realize what was happening to him, and struggling to accept the reality of what that meant. “Aging ain’t for sissies,” he’d always say.
There were days when Dad couldn’t sit up straight in a chair or even lift a spoon to his mouth. He had no physical strength. It was hard to experience this deterioration, especially after having worked with him in my garden only 3 years before. He helped me dig out pathways and a pond. I couldn’t keep up with his energy those days. He was so strong, then.
I struggled to contain my anger, with this new reality; to accept how this once virile man was being consumed by this horrible disease.
Our tropical trip together was exactly the therapy I needed to soften my heart and strengthen my resolve.
My Dad will always live in my heart as my hero, my friend, my “Philosopher Dad.” He always used to say “Life is like a roll of toilet paper… the closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes!”
I am so grateful we had quality time to create so many beautiful memories before the end of the roll.