When I was a child I always put off what needed to be done today with the promise that I would do it tomorrow. As an adult I often do the same thing. I can fold those clothes tomorrow (fluff cycle is awesome), balance that checkbook tomorrow, run to the post office tomorrow . . . as I have traveled all around town today with a package to drop of at the post office. I will do that first thing in the morning. I promise!
Today I learned that a friend of mine lost her mother. I cannot remember specifically the type of dementia her mother suffered from, but I do know that many families in my support group have loved ones with the same disease. It is a terrible disease that robs the entire family of so much.
Dementia robs us of a future. It robs us of the ability to make new fun memories together. It does not, however, rob us of all the gifts we have received from our loved one. It is the memories that we carry in our soul that make us who we are today.
Let me tell you about some of the memories that shaped me and made me who I am today.
I have successfully taught two children to drive and God willing, I will teach two more children to drive in a few short months. I can honestly tell you that I do NOT enjoy this part of parenting. I love life and I want to live for a long time! My parents taught me to drive. I remember hours in parking lots. I remember practicing a stick shift on the gentle slope of Norman Drive. I can honestly say that my parents were very patient. Time after time they let me drive and with every mistake I made I had a gentle reminder of how to do things the correct way, the safe way. I could easily hand off my children to their father and let him do all the driver’s ed, but I need to make those memories with my children too. Now, I am not going to say that my parents did not slam on the imaginary breaks or have a death grip on the arm rest and believe me, I do that too! But this is a rite of passage and I want to make these memories with my children too; including the death grip and the imaginary breaks.
I have sent daughters out on first dates. When I went on my first date, my father made sure I had a dime with me. My children would look at me like I was crazy if I handed them a dime or in this day a quarter. The dime was to call home if I needed my dad to come get me. I even remember my mom sewing a tiny pocket in an evening dress so I could have that dime even if I did not carry a purse. So I do not have to send my children out with a dime or a quarter because, thanks to technology, they have a cell phone. However, they know I will come get them any time anywhere. No questions asked. You call and I will come. Period. If my dad was able to drive today, he would still come get me; no questions asked. Period.
These are just two examples of what my parents instilled in me. I told my friend today that she would always have her memories and they made her the wonderful mom that she is today. I know this easy for me to say, I still have both of my parents. My friend has lost both of her parents and I did not know either one of them. However, I am certain that she learned wonderful things from her parents. I bet she has good memories and bad memories and I bet all of them together make her the person that she is today.
No one is promised tomorrow – with or without dementia.
But I will always do my very best to see my father for who he is and who he was and not for the disease that he has today. He is not the disease. He is a parent that still has a lot to offer and a lot to teach me. Some days he teaches me patience and some days he teaches me to laugh.
He is STILL trying to teach me to slow down because no on is promised a tomorrow so we better enjoy today.