As promised, a few more Thanksgiving observations - not because I want to tell you what I'm thankful for and what I'm not (I'm sure you can figure it out) but because it's an anniversary: roughly two years since it became obvious that my father had Alzheimer's.
There were problems before, as I think I've mentioned - word choice problems going back to 2000 or 2001, poor judgment during my mother's final illness in 2002, aide care after a hospitalization in 2003, loss of complex functions like household bookkeeping (not to mention the big credit-card-debt run-up) in the few years that followed. There was an apartment fire in 2005 - he left a toaster-oven on - that in retrospect was sort of a marker. And in the course of 2006 I gradually took over all the household management. When you summarize it all in a paragraph it sounds like a crash, and it felt that way.
Nevertheless, in the fall of 2006, I was still telling people that he had "some cognitive problems" or "a slow-moving kind of dementia, but it's not Alzheimer's." Which was a nice conceit. At roughly that time, the really bizarre behavior started.
First was the beginning of the day/night disorientation - you'd phone him at night and he'd ask why you were calling so early in the morning.
One Saturday afternoon he called me all upset because he was expecting visitors (Harriet and Arthur) on Sunday, and the newspaper had just been delivered, and it had a Sunday dateline. So it must be Sunday. Where were they? I explained to him that sections of the Sunday New York Times were delivered on Saturday - something he'd known the week before, but it was gone all of a sudden.
On Thanksgiving my wife and I drove him to Philadelphia to visit with her family. As soon as he got into the car he told us he'd had a visit from someone in the building he'd never seen before, who had brought him food. This was clearly the upstairs neighbor, who used to do that before my father got too strange and difficult, but all at once he had no idea who she was.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law drove us to a suburban furniture showroom (we were buying chairs). My father sat quietly in the back seat for the 40 minutes it took us to get there. Then he took me aside and asked who the strange woman was who'd been driving us. He'd spent the whole previous night with her at dinner, and he'd had a long conversation with her at breakfast, but once she got into the driver's seat she was in a different context - one he'd never seen before, because she'd never driven him anywhere - and so he couldn't recognize her.
On the way home we got caught in traffic at the Holland Tunnel exit. I had the car radio on. My father mentioned how nice it was that the city had decided to play music to soothe the drivers. How long had this particular municipal program been going on? I explained that we were listening to the car radio but the explanation didn't take, and he went on talking about the new civic driver-soothing broadcast program...
When we got to our apartment that night my wife and I looked at each other and admitted we had a problem. Which, as I understand it, is the first step... By later that week I was googling Alzheimer's. The rest is history. Some of it is a blog.
This year he's no longer aware of when Thanksgiving is or what it is. And of course he can't travel. I'll call him tomorrow night when I get to Philadelphia and see if get him oriented. If not, I'll just follow along as usual.
And next Thanksgiving? Who knows?