May 9, 2009

A few lines on Dementia

Some versions of Picks disease are inherited.  (There is a family in Italy that can trace the path of the disease down their family line for 500 years.) And sometimes Picks hits one person in a family but everyone else remains untouched (except for the changes that come about due to the caring for the one).  My mom thinks that my dad's situation falls into the latter category. 

My dad's dad lived well into his 80s and was knocking out crosswords like they were child's-play up until the day he was taken to the hospital. My dad's mom is starting to slip a little mentally, but once you pass 85, I think that's often to be expected. And she's still the social butterfly she always was. None of my dad's cousins or aunts or uncles or grandparents have or had any form of dementia. (And he has no siblings.  So we can't make comparisons there.) So it's quite likely that my mom is right. Perhaps this is an isolated event within our family. Perhaps my sister, and myself, and my children won't get it. ... But then again, it's hard not to consider the possibility that we will.

I've written two poems recently. One is about taking a walk with my dad and how special that was to me, even though he wasn't really there. And the other is about losing several things at once and wondering if this marked the beginning of my end.


I hold his hand as we walk.
I am walking not with who he was,
    all of that is gone,
not with who he is,
    who is he when he cannot speak?
    cannot make a decision?
    cannot respond to his body's needs.
I walk with who we are.

I cherish who we are.
He is my dad.  I am his daughter.
In all our frailties
    our relationship gives meaning to our walk.

Children of Dementia

When you misplace things
    do you fear
not that you will never find it again
    but that you have entered upon that road?
Do you see
    in a missing note,
    a misplaced camera,
    a forgotten meeting
signs of greater loss coming,
no longer crouching in wait
    but now stalking
    wrenching a memory away here
    a modicum of your personality there?

Which is worse, that you can't find your keys?
or that this might be the key to how your end will come?