(I originally posted this on facebook but I wanted to spread it around so...)
Dad Update: Mom and my brother Mark went up to visit last weekend, now it seems it is my turn.
My stepsister Carolyn called on Thanksgiving to say that I shouldn't wait for the holiday visit three weeks hence. She thinks there's a good chance if I wait that long, I may miss seeing Dad entirely. So, thank goodness Mom could help me with the cost of a flight, I'll be heading out before dawn on Monday morning and should be in Boston by noon that day.
Dad is best, briefly, first thing in the morning (even now he's a morning person). So I'll catch him in groggier form on Monday afternoon, and then have a decent chance to hang out with him on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, and I'll be winging back to Minnesota late Wednesday afternoon.
I've been writing him little notes nearly every day, as I do with my goddaughter Ursula, in recent weeks. My stepmother Debbie reads them to him. They're just short enough to be digestible. So I feel, weirdly, like I've been visiting and in conversation with him already, even though it's one-sided. And I've been visiting regularly each Christmas, and we all gathered for his 90th birthday in February this year, so I don't feel unconnected to what's been going on, but it's accelerating now.
Mom doesn't think Dad will be physically gone by Christmas, but she thinks there's a good chance he may not still be with us mentally by then. The dementia’s really taking hold. She could tell when they were talking during her visit that there were moments he couldn’t figure out who she was. They were having a friendly chat, but there was something behind his eyes that said, “I know who she is, but I can’t place her.”
My stepmother Debbie falls somewhere on the spectrum between my mom and Carolyn about just how close Dad is to the exit door, and whether his mind or his body will be going through first, but she seemed really relieved when I said I was coming. She doesn’t want me to miss the window either.
And I’ll still be going out again in three weeks’ time. This visit’s just for insurance. Early Christmas. Who knows what Christmas proper will look like this time around.
On one level, we’ve said everything we need to say to each other, Dad and me. I feel very lucky. I’ve never doubted his love for me, and vice versa. And every phone call, he never fails to say how proud he is of me, whether I feel like I’ve done anything all that significant to be proud about or not.
He’s getting the best of care. We’re very fortunate in so many ways.
But, you know, it still sucks saying goodbye.
As Marvin the paranoid android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would say, “Life. Don’t talk to me about life.”
Or as Kurt Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.”
Thanks for all the thoughts, prayers and good wishes, everyone. Even though I haven’t had time to respond properly, it’s good to know you’re all out there, lifting us up.