On this day in July…

July 19, 2009 my life changed forever. My dad was rushed to the hospital. He hadn’t been himself all day. He had been having horrendous hallucinations and he barely had enough oxygen in him to walk to the bathroom without being breathless. The following day he was “normal” and we had hoped the day before was something to be chalked up as my dad being sick. Little did we know it would become our norm. On July 18, 2009 I had dinner with my father and he was fine. We were laughing and joking around as always. I had just got to their house from South Jersey as my nephew, Carter, had been born a few days prior. The very next day the dad that I had known had slipped away forever. I have since had glimpses of days past but they are short-lived. His memory was gone. He was having hallucinations. He was aggressive and moody. He was weak. He lost his independence practically overnight. At first we allowed him to take short trips to the market, the bank, post office, to get pizza but that didn’t last. We had to hide the keys and eventually hide the car. He couldn’t make coffee anymore as he would inadvertently start fires in the kitchen. He was still smoking at that point but the cigarettes and matches had to be hid as well because he would light everything on fire except the cigarette. He has since quit – – mostly because he forgot to smoke and the need, the addiction, eventually faded. He still asks for one every now and again. I laugh at him and say, “You quit smoking a long time ago. What, did you forget?” His funny stories, laughter, smile – – gone. He couldn’t help around the house. I remember the night he came home from that first hospital stay. He stayed up hours polishing the dining room table and chairs. For a short while the medicine helped. If I had known then what I know now I would have done things differently. He was misdiagnosed (and treated) for 18 months with Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s disease. On February 19, 2011 we found out my dad had something called NPH (normal pressure hydrocephalus), which is possibly treatable with brain surgery. The doctors wanted to do some tests on my dad to see if he would benefit from surgery. The results were staggering. We were thrilled that he could quite possibly be “cured” and looking forward to returning to some sense of normalcy. One problem though. My dad refused the surgery. Even though my dad doesn’t have Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s he has all of the symptoms only elevated – – more severe and escalating a lot quicker than if he had really had either of those conditions. I really wish I had the words to make a difference in his decision. He won’t pursue it out of fear. Fear of losing his life in surgery. But I ask myself – – is it really living if you have already lost your independence? He can’t even walk anymore. He can barely take a step. On this father’s day 2011 my father is still present on this earth and I should be thankful for that but I miss the man he once was.

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