Near the end of his life my father suffered from severe dementia. When I was growing up, my father was always a sweet and gentle man who could occasionally have a really bad temper. But with the dementia, he became a man with a really bad temper, who could occasionally be sweet and gentle.
My father couldn’t understand his world anymore and it made him mad. He couldn’t do simple things for himself and was mad that other people had to do them for him. He found peace and happiness in taking long walks but was mad when my mother no longer let him go alone for fear that he would get lost. He was mad that he was cooped up in the house most of the time.
One day while I was visiting my parents I was up in my father’s computer room where he had loose pieces of papers with writings on them. I found one titled “My Remembers”. On that paper were memories. Early memories. Moments from his childhood. It was so fascinating to me that he could remember things so long ago but often didn’t know my name. He was clearly trying to recollect parts of his life, because he knew it was all slipping away.
He also spent hours upon hours in the basement where he would organize his workbench. He would place meaningless seeming things, like rubber bands and boxes of nails, in a certain order. And he would pin up business cards and photos. The arrangement of these objects began to look like still life paintings to me. Order from chaos. Art from memories. Still life of his life. Trying to remember. I wonder if that is how he saw it too.
It was heartbreaking. Watching someone deteriorate like that is like losing them twice. Once when they are alive and again when they die. I miss my dad. I miss the warmth of him. The happiness he would show when I would go to visit. I miss his awkward, stiff hugs that allowed me a moment to get closer to that warmth.