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Looking for Dad on the hill

Even after my dad had to stop driving due to his increasing dementia, there was a period where he could still do errands on his own. This gave my mom some much-needed quiet time, and kept dad from getting cabin fever. But as he declined further, mom would worry about him returning safely more and more. I think I’ve mentioned before how he would wander off on his own sometimes, saying he was going to the bank on Sundays even though it was closed.

The hill in front of my parents’ property became a focal point of these journeys. My mom (and I when I was visiting home) would stare out the window in the guest bedroom, praying silently that we would see the tall, lean figure of my dad, his long legs pumping strongly up that hill, returning home safely. So even though my mom should have been able to enjoy that time alone, she was still constantly fearing she would get the phone call that all families dealing with dementia dread. She would worry that he would be hit by a car because he would ignore the crossing signal. She worried that he would forget where to go or how to return home.

That hill was one of the markers of my dad’s independence, and how quickly it was fading. Soon, he would only be allowed to stand on the porch to smoke, with my mom or I peeking out to make sure he didn’t slip down the stairs and wander off. The porch overlooks the hill, and I don’t know if dad could reason at that point that Alzheimer’s was robbing his independence, or if everything surrounding him seemed like a foreign land that he had never seen before.

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