This has been a rough school year. It began last fall with a young girl, a friend of many of my students from another school, dying in a car accident. This spring, one of my students was seriously injured in another accident. And in between that have been many losses for the people around me.
Just since January, six fathers have died. Two friends from high school lost theirs – one dad had Alzheimer’s, the other had Parkinson’s. Another friend from Memphis and two students all had dads who suffered sudden heart attacks. I was at a friend’s house recently when her neighbor came over to say her ex-husband (her kids’ father) had committed suicide.
I know I am hyper-aware of people’s dads right now, since I am so worried about my own, but it still seems like I am being surrounded by the death of fathers. Each one makes my heart hurt a little more – each one is like a preview of that moment when it will be my father. While I hate to think about that day – I can only hope it is far into the future – I am grateful that I have had my dad for as long as I have. My heart breaks most for my students, who both lost fathers much too young.
Dad has been there for most of life’s milestones – my high school graduation, my college graduation, the purchase of my first home. My biggest disappointment is that by the time I am allowed to marry the woman I love (and I believe that day is coming), he won’t be able to walk me down the aisle.
This past week, I have visited several residential programs in my area geared towards memory care for Alzheimer’s patients. My mother has looked at several more, closer to where they live. Each one had pros and cons, but I am beginning to realize that he is going to need to move into one of them sooner rather than later. His grasp of present reality is slipping more and more each day. He still seems to know me most of the time – he remembers that I teach school and asks me all the time how that is going. But he doesn’t remember that my brother is married with three children or that his five siblings have all died.
Most days, he doesn’t understand that he is in his own apartment – he often asks when he will be leaving to go back home. One of my concerns about placing him in a care facility is that if he isn’t comfortable in his own home, surrounded by familiar things, how will he ever feel secure in a new environment? Because I will worry about him, I really want him to be somewhere close enough that I can stop in to see him several times a week – I like to think it would be to reassure him, but I know it will really be to reassure myself!
This decision isn’t an easy one for my family. We have to consider what will be best for Dad as well as what makes the most sense for all of us. I’m just not sure what that will entail. When we figure it out, I’ll let you know!