Note: I wrote this extremely personal essay almost a year ago after a short visit home, more as a release than anything else. It seems appropriate to post it now, on the occasion of Father's Day.
SHORT-TERM MEMORY, LONG-TERM LOVE
“Dad’s starting to forget things,” my mother told me when she came to visit with my sister last year. “He’ll ask me something, and then ten minutes later, he’ll ask exactly the same question again. It can get really repetitive.”
Senility was not something I ever thought would afflict my dad. At least not at 75. In fact, the only other close family member who suffered from dementia was my maternal grandmother. In her dotage she would forget our names but recall with impressive clarity episodes from her youth, in the days before marriage and World War II. Bedridden, she would keep her money and jewelry hidden under her mattress and then accuse the nurse of stealing from her. She never forgot, however, that she was a devout Catholic, and even erected a makeshift altar on top of the television set in her bedroom in my parents’ house. Vying for altar space with the Virgin Mary, the Infant Jesus and a vial of holy water from Lourdes was a plastic statue of Mickey Mouse.