For those of us who have lost a father due to Alzheimer’s complications or who are watching their dad battle the disease right now, Father’s Day is a holiday with mixed emotions. But while the damage Alzheimer’s inflicts on families should never be forgotten, this is also a good day to reflect on the positives of your relationship with your dad. After all, you might not be feeling such pain or loss if you did not value him and love him deeply as a father to begin with. For some people being estranged from their father makes this holiday a very painful experience as well.
For me, the realization that I did deeply love my dad and didn’t have this distant, indifferent relationship I always imagined came after Dad began losing his mind. That is unfortunate, but I know right before he started to change, I was able to tell him how I know it was difficult dealing with Mom sometimes and to just try to hang in there. In fact, one of the last things I remember him saying to me on my last visit before he became ill was, “Your mother is driving me crazy!”
I can still hear his hoarse, smoker’s voice making that half-joking, half-serious accusation. (My parents drove each other a little crazy, but they were devoted to one another.)
I could beat myself up today for not being there more often for my dad when he began the sad, slow slide into dementia. But at least I did get to hold his hand and tell him how much I loved him in the last couple of months of his life. And he was even aware and able to respond at one point: “I know you do.”
Actions of the past can’t be changed so as caregivers and family members we should stop being so hard on ourselves. Take today to remind yourself of the more pleasant times and let them bring joy to you even now as you mourn or suffer.