Dad has Alzheimer’s
It’s official. He’s been examined by a doctor who can assess and diagnose the disease. Dad went through some genetic testing and we were told that the gene he possesses will enable the most aggressive development of symptoms and conditions. We were also told that the gene can be passed on to his descendants, a fact that my siblings and I are absorbing in various ways.
I spent several hours with Dad recently, one of only a handful times I’ve been alone with him over the last 30 years. Dad is now 84 years old. He’s a completely different person from the man I grew up knowing, and the man that was the best man in my wedding when he was 50. I now see a man who is afraid of who he has become, but is also too proud to acknowledge that all is not right in his world.
Dad still has memories, mostly of the events of his youth, or our time as a family in the 1960’s and 70’s. At least that’s what he talked coherently about with me. Although I didn’t correct him when he told me that most of his 14 siblings were still alive and that his oldest sister must be at least 80 years old by now. His oldest sister is 95 years old as I write this.
He hasn’t called me by name in years. But recently he did identify me as his “Number One Son” to a woman I was meeting for the first time. He has referred to me as “Number One Son” since I can remember as I am the oldest of his six children. I think he got that reference from a TV show in the 60’s and has used it ever since. The fact that he knew who I was and how I was related to him was comforting. If that makes sense.
Dad won’t be able to pass on memories to us much longer. And some of what he tries to pass on may be close to the truth as he has formed his own interpretation of his memories. Although much is being done to understand and develop treatments for Alzheimer’s, there’s no cure. There’s no turning back for Dad. He’s in the middle stage of the disease and the best that can be done for him can only control his emotions.
This is my first attempt in starting a journey to document my memories, and not only those of Dad, but of what life was like as a “Number One Son” in a very large extended family. It shaped my life and I can only hope to pass on the best to those I love so dearly.
Our First Child
After many hours of labor, the decision was made to perform a cesarean procedure to finish the birthing process of our first child. They gave my wife an epidural so she would be alert in the operating room. The nurse handed me some scrubs, led me to the washroom and told me to be quick.
When I was clean and dressed, a different nurse brought me into the operating room and I was seated near my wife’s head, and a makeshift divider was set up to prevent us from seeing any of the procedure about to happen. Within a minute or two, one of the nurses exclaimed “there’s an ear!”
A few seconds later, the doctor raised a baby boy, covered in fluids, eyes closed, the umbilical cord still attached to him. Behind the divider again, lots of activity was happening with the doctor and two nurses moving quickly with instruments, wipes and whispers. Then we heard the first cries of a baby as one of the nurses brought him to the corner and wrapped him in blankets and put a blue watch cap on his head.
The nurse then brought him to my wife and put him in her arms. He was alert and quiet as he stared at her face. She said “hello James Elliot” and I started crying. James just looked at his mother with a furrowed brow and clear eyes.
As the medical crew scurried to finish their work, I sat with wonder watching my son and his mother bond with each other for the very first time.