I loved my father. He was a gentle soul with a sense of humor that stayed with him all through his Alzheimer’s journey that ended on October 13th, 2007.
I am very aware that a lingering sense of humor is a gift that is not bestowed on everyone affected by cognitive impairment. As is too often the case, dementia has its way with its victims and transforms them into a person cloaked in contrary behaviors that might reveal themselves in anger, cussing, and even violence. Fortunately, that was not the case for my father.
Dad was a birth-to-the-grave Roman Catholic who raised all three of us children in the faith. Although none of us kids currently follow that particular religion, it most definitely shaped the spiritual paths in which we now find ourselves.
During one of my many visits with Dad, I sensed he was despondent and might benefit from a Catholic ritual that he instilled in us kids throughout our growing up years: recitation of the rosary. Using actual rosary beads for counting purposes or one’s fingers, participants recite a multi-part repetition of several prayers.
“Dad, how about we say the rosary?”
“Oh, Irene, I would really love that. Is it okay if we just use our fingers instead of a rosary? I’m not sure where mine is.”
“Works for me, how about you lead us?” Not only did Dad lead us—he never faltered. He knew each prayer; he counted out each one on his fingers and was able to complete the ritual with me to both his and my satisfaction.
Saying the rosary with my father was one of the most intimate and gratifying moments of my caregiving days with him. His eyes remained closed throughout but I kept mine open so I could watch every word that came out of his mouth and marvel at the ingrained memory of prayers that shaped his lifetime of goodness and kindness. It was a father/daughter moment rich in tradition, spirituality, and love.
The reward? Shortly thereafter Dad’s despondency lifted to be replaced by a lightness that boosted his spirit and his well-being. Another reward? Reliving this memory I am still able to recreate the feeling of closeness and connection shared with a man who was, and still is, a most excellent example of all that is good in the world.
Alzheimer’s disease could not rob him of that.
My novel, Requiem for the status quo, was dedicated to my father. Stories of his and my journey can be found among its pages.