To Daddy, With Love

By Harold R. "Scottie" Scott • October 15, 2013

To Daddy, With Love

I wrote this prior to my Daddy's passing, two days after Father's Day, 2013, and in that October is Alzheimers Awareness Month, I felt I wanted to share, as a way to remember him.

Alzheimers, Dementia, The Forgetting, all terms used to describe the disease that robs the mind,memory, and lives of so many. It is, and has been a fast growing illness, affecting so many families. My family is one of those, in that my daddy was diagnosed with the illness, a few years ago,in early January 2010, but, with symptoms showing several years prior. As with any aging parent, or anyone aging, for that matter, there are times of forgetfulness, but, with Alzheimers, the process is one that progresses at a sometimes faster pace, or perhaps I should say, being able to recall ones daily routines, or familiar places, persons or things, becomes a chore within itself.

I am not writing to exploit my Daddy's illness, rather, I am writing with my perspective, and, of how I see it evolving, and ,the affects it is having on my Daddy, My Mom, our family, and, on me, as one of his children, and, as one, who sees it from a distance, in that I am living farther away, and, do not see my Daddy on a daily basis, or, as often, as perhaps, other family members do.

My Daddy was always a physically strong man. And, even today, at nearly age 80, still tries to be strong. One who was not formally educated, but, was one who used much common sense, and, could do math in his head faster than most could with pen and paper, or a calculator. He was a hard working farmer, who, along with my Mom, raised and cared for six children. He is a keeper of the land, one, who always enjoyed a good "Coon Dog and hunt", a strong cup of coffee, a good husband and provider, who would at times, while out on the farm , pick wildflowers for my Mom. A simple man, it seems, yet, one who was never shy about talking to friends and strangers,expressing his opinion, and strong willed, almost to the point of being stubborn.

I often wonder what it must feel like to him, to be at a loss, in trying to recall recent events, or, in trying to remember someones name. Of the frustration that shows, as he admits, he just can't remember things like he once could. Alzheimers has been described as "The Long Goodbye", and, perhaps that is a good description. As it progresses, and slowly takes away the person we have known, and see the changes in their personality, behavior, and physical appearance, not really knowing what to expect, we realize there is not much we can do, but, to try and help out when and where we can.

I often hear the same story repeated over and over, with each visit, and, sometimes that "blank stare" sneaks in. It is then, I am again reminded of how cruel this disease can be, for, I know and realize the toll that is being taken on my Daddy's mind and body.

His memories of his childhood, still are vivid. He can recall people, places and things of so many years ago. It is these memories that I record, as the family genealogist, as Daddy is the oldest of his surviving siblings. He shares stories of days gone by,so, I jot them down, not only for my records, but, as a way of preserving his memories, and, it becomes a good way for he and I to connect, and have meaningful conversations, as I know, that with each passing day, these memories too, will be forgotten by him, as are the recent ones. Its a way for us to stay ahead of Alzheimers, for the present time, at least.

While I am not my daddy's full time caregiver, I have been a part time one, especially, during the recent hospitalization of my Mom, who, has been my daddy's constant companion, caregiver, and loving wife. It was during this time, that I got to see a side of Daddy, that I had never seen before. While he still functions some days, at a pretty good pace, there are other times when it is a jumbled fog for him, as he starts to say something, forgets, repeats, and sometimes, just outright, does not know what he is saying, nor remember. For the few days, that I cared for he, and, my sister, he did not know who I was, for most of the time, even asking who I was from time to time, and, saying that he had been told that I was his son, and, that was news to him. He did not know he had a son by my name, nor did he remember when I was born. Rather, he often referred to me, as "that little man", who was a pretty good cook, and, house cleaner. But, then, on the other hand, when he did know me, he told me he loved me. My daddy was never an affectionate man, and, even though I knew I was loved by my parents, he, was never one to openly express his love for us. It was during this time, as well, that he expressed how good my Mom had been to him, and, that he thought he made a really good choice, in picking her as his life mate. It was during this time, that, I realized that Daddy was still capable of feeling, and loving, and caring, even though, due to his advancing age, and the affects of Alzheimers, there, hidden away behind what must be frustration on his part, is still a will to be independent, and, to try and go about a "normal" life.

For those who know me, know that I am one who lives my life openly, and, have put it all out there on display, as I am one living with a disease of my own. I am one who feels if things are talked about, and discussed, it makes for a better situation. However, within the situation of Alzheimers, and, as it affects my family, talking about it, and, the future planning, regarding such things as living wills, the need for Daddy to stop driving, or, to just let others help out with everyday living, running errands, etc., is a very hard thing to approach for discussion, even for me. I have often said, that I can stand before hundreds of people/strangers, and, talk openly about my life, and the issues and struggles, but, when it comes to my Daddy, and, things I feel would be of benefit to him, or my Mom, things rarely are discussed, or, if they are, it becomes quite the chore. It is as if the roles are reversed, in that as a child, even being a grown child, I sometimes feel like the parent to my Daddy and Mom. I have a great respect for both of them, and, even if Alzheimers were not a part of the mix, it should be that we all look at the future, and, therefore take the steps to prepare legal documents, discuss finances, pre arrangements, etc. There are so many things that could and should be addressed, but, for whatever reason, it is just so hard to get the conversation going.

As you read this, and, as I write my thoughts, it is, I suppose, a way for me to get it all out, even if it is only in typed, written words. With any illness, that we are faced with, and, again, I am only speaking for myself, to be able to better deal with it, to not hold it all in, is a good thing. Such is the case here, in that I am trying to be honest about what I am experiencing, and/or feeling, in regards to how I am affected by my Daddy's illness.

We all, I suppose, have our ways of doing things, expressing ourselves, and opinions. And, while being independent, is something we all want to be. It is my Daddy, and, I suppose my Mom as well,that I want independence to be theirs for as long as possible. But, with Alzheimers, there is a more urgent feeling, of trying to perhaps control the happenings surrounding it. As stated earlier, driving becomes an issue, as the body and mind is slowed by the progression of Alzheimers. Reflexes are not as quick, distance perception comes into play, and, just plain, good judgment, all figure into driving. For those of us who drive, giving up that independence, would most certainly be a very hard thing to do. And, for anyone affected by Alzheimers, and, still trying to drive, it can be sometimes a deadly combination, or puts one at risk of becoming "lost", in what was once familiar surroundings.

I will honestly say, I cannot imagine, what it must feel like to be losing control, of ones thoughts, memories, and, to not be able to recall who ones own child or spouse is, as is the case with advancing Alzheimers, and, as is the case with my own Daddy. I do, however, try to put myself in his place. I try to understand the process, the decline, the overall changes in his appearance and behavior. It must be a scary place to be, to say the very least. I have found, however, there are still ways to connect with Daddy. As I do family genealogy, I sometimes share information with him, helping him to recall long ago memories, and, therefore, allowing conversation, that helps him to feel a part of, without too much effort, and, therefore, making it a less stressful and frustrating time. There are ways, at this point in the disease, at least, to still have some sort of relationship, even though he may not always remember it, a short time after it has occurred.

It is certainly a stressful thing for us as a family, and, for anyone who is affected by Alzheimers, you certainly know what it is like. Yes, there are somewhat "normal" times, but, then, there are lots of times, when its just painful to see, and hear, as the disease deepens, and slowly causes those we love to slip further into the darkness, of this cruel disease.

Perhaps, what I have written here, may appear to just be a rambling story of jumbled thoughts and words, by some of you who read it. To others, it may be the exact thoughts, and experiences you have had, or, are having. For me, again, it is my way of letting it out, and, to not keep it bottled up. It may not resolve any of the issues I have written about, but, overall, it is a therapeutic session, and, a way of shedding some light into the disease.

I love my Daddy, Alzheimers or not. The sometimes appearing stubborness that I see from him, may, in part, be a part of his once strong willed personality, and, a coping mechanism, of a depression era upbringing. Whatever it is, he is still my Daddy, and, I'll admit, when he does not know who I am, it hurts, and, makes me sad, but, Daddy told me he loved me, and as my Father's son, this is a partial view of how I see Alzheimers, from a distance.

Reality allows me, or perhaps forces me, to know that, as time continues to pass, Daddy will slip further and further away. I cannot stop it, nor, can I make it go away. All I can do is to try to make the best of a difficult situation, and, to enjoy the good times, and keep the memories close, and, to offer up prayers for not only my Daddy, and our family, but, for all affected by this terrible, and sad disease.

Thank you Daddy

Sept. 2, 2013

Two weeks have now passed since the death of my Daddy, Hamp Scott, and, it has been, for me, a time of great sadness, as I'm sure it is for anyone who has lost a loved one, especially a parent. We laid him to rest on June 21, 2013, which ironically, was The Alzheimer's Association's, The Longest Day event.

I spoke at Daddy's funeral, recalling memories of my own, about him, and some of the things from his life that impacted mine, and that of my family. Certain things about him came to mind, as I began to think about what I would say about him, and, I closed with the reading of a poem, that we felt, fit Daddy, and his life.

Daddy was diagnosed with Alzheimers, in Jan. 2010, but had symptoms, at least six years before that, I recall. It was with his diagnosis, that I, and we, as a family, began to realize our lives would not be the same, and I, like so many others, who have been touched by Alzheimers, began to read and research as much as I could, so that I might have some idea what was ahead for us, and, our Daddy.

Daddy, as I stated, while speaking at his funeral, grew up poor, worked hard as a child, and experienced some of the hard things, way too early in his life, as the second of thirteen children, and being the oldest son. He often talked of his childhood, in the later years of his life, before his memory began to fade away, and, as the Alzheimers progressed, he repeated stories over and over, eventually forgetting people, places and things. Alzheimers is a cruel, constant disease, and, does not favor one person over another. It just is.

As Daddy got older, or, maybe it was as I got older, things became gentler. I saw affection, I gave affection, there were hugs, pats on the back, and, an ease that I never seemed to notice before. We, as his children, all had our relationships with daddy over the years, and into his final days. As for my siblings, I can't say what their relationships were with him, except to say, that we all loved our daddy. For some of us, it was the farming connection, or the coon hunting connection, and even though there were trying times for all of us I suppose over the years, all that really mattered was that we had a Father/child connection, and whatever else we enjoyed with daddy, with our own special times together, is something we can now treasure.

It was in the last few weeks, and final days, where I came to realize, that we too, would be losing daddy. His physical condition declined, he needed help doing what we saw as the simplest of things, and honestly there were times when trying to care for him at home, I felt overwhelmed. But, I tried to keep reminding myself, it was the disease, and not my daddy's fault. In the end, I, like many of us in the family, would visit, or talk to daddy, even when at times it seemed behind the confusion of forgetfulness, or the struggle to get the words out, Daddy was still there, in those kind and caring eyes, and with the softness of his aged and weathered hands, the love would still come through.

The last words I understood daddy to say, was late on Saturday night, before Fathers Day, Sunday. As I went to his bedside to tell him goodbye, and that I loved him, I said, "Daddy, I'm going home now, I'm taking Mom and Teresa home", he softly said, "I'm going home soon too". I couldn't help but cry, for I knew he was ready to make the crossing from this life, into the next. I went back to see him on Fathers Day morning, taking him a card like I'd done for so many years, for Fathers Day. He was not responding, so I just sat alone with him, for about three hours, watching him slip away, knowing the end was near. He hung on for another 48 hours or so, as we, as a family, gathered in his room. About an hour before he passed away, we all joined together, as a prayer was said by a young minister, and family friend. Shortly thereafter, I left the room, for I had already accepted my Daddy's time on earth was at an end, and, I had had those three hours alone with him, and fifty one years, proud to call him Daddy.

The days without him in a physical sense over the past two weeks, has had its moments of tears, not just for me, but, for the rest of my family I'm sure. We are learning a "new normal", in that the cycle of life, has come to our family, like so many others around the world. I was blessed with a daddy, who was a good man. I am still blessed with a good Mom. Time will be our friend, as it helps us to heal from this time in our lives. We as a family, have experienced loss over the years, with the passing of other loved ones, and family members. This for me, however, is different somehow. But, I believe Daddy will live on in me, and in my family.

Thank you Daddy. You are missed.

** Daddy passed away on June 18, 2013, two days after Fathers Day


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