Saying Goodbye to Dad
Dad's Illness Through My Eyes
My dad started losing his way in the mid 1990s. I was in my 30s, living in Dallas, where I was editor-in-chief of an upscale lifestyle magazine. One afternoon at the office I got a call from him. "Hi, Babe," he said in his eternally cheerful way. "Hey, I took a bus downtown, and I don't really know where I am. Can you come get me?" He seemed like himself, only really confused, and my heart sank. This was new and totally unexpected. What do I do? I told him to ask a passerby what street he was on and prayed he'd stay put till I could find him. I made some excuses and raced downtown with my heart pounding to get him and drive him home to far North Dallas.
I felt scared and, yes, angry. Why should my peaceful life be interrupted in this way? Then I felt guilty for having those thoughts. Gibbons says this is all part of the typical experience, but I didn't know that then.
Soon there were other signs of trouble. At 70, Dad was still driving, but he was getting lost more often. He'd never exactly been Magellan when it came to navigating, so it took us a while to see that it was a serious problem, and getting worse. One evening when I was at Mom and Dad's he went out to pick up some takeout food from one of our favorite spots nearby and didn't come home for hours. I went to look for him, thinking he'd been in a car accident. I couldn't find him anywhere along the obvious route. He'd gotten lost but eventually, somehow, found his way home. My mom, who has a history of depression, was extremely upset, angry with Dad, and probably really scared. I tried to keep my cool and think of something helpful. But what?