Four years ago this month my mother died. My sister died a few months earlier. They both had cancer, my sister lived for 10 months after her diagnosis, my mother for 6 days.
My siblings and I knew that my father was beginning to show signs of memory loss and that the death of my sister, the oldest child, had been very hard on him. Our mother kept telling us that he was worse than we knew – she was right. When she passed so suddenly his care fell entirely into our laps. We kept him at home. The man was 80 years old, had just lost his wife and daughter, was losing his memory, and there was no way we were going to make him leave the house he had called home for 60 years. We managed this by taking shifts, someone with him all night, someone else all day. We managed this way for almost 2 years. Then he became very ill, and he went to hospital. He was so sick. He just kept asking to go home. So we brought him home, to die. He didn’t die though, and we realized, even with the home care we now had to help us, caring for him at home was no longer an option. He was declared a crisis placement and put in a nursing home. He has been there for just over 2 years now. He is in his own world, rarely speaking, not knowing any of us.
Death is hard. My mother and sister were sick and then they were gone. I missed them. I miss them. Somehow, there was a way to make sense of their deaths. I could explain to my kids that while one of their aunts, had cancer and had an operation and got better, not everyone is that fortunate.
What my dad is going through is much harder to handle. He is both here and gone, quiet literally a shell of his former self. The kindest man I know, the one who saw and/or spoke to 5 children and 14 grandchild daily, stopped knowing us. He stopped calling us by name, and because the cruelty of dementia knows no bounds he began swearing and acting violently. My dad who told me he loved me every time we spoke was now telling me to fuck off.
What gets me through this is my siblings. We have always been close, both emotionally and geographically. I am thankful everyday that we like each other and we love to laugh. When I think about my mom, I know that, the love we still have for each other would make her proud.
I was supposed to write this post to my “dream reader”. Really I think my dream reader is someone who “gets” me. These events, the death of my mother and sister, the way my father is drifting away, have changed me and shaped my world view more than any others. I guess if I was going to pick specific dream readers it would be my mom and dad, figures.