September 5, 2020

This is What it’s like to Watch a Loved One Fade Away.

Today I listened to my coffee maker.

I mean, I really, really listened. It sputtered and wheezed and finished brewing my morning pot of coffee with a final, dramatic exhalation of mist and hot air. It was only the blasé creation of a pot full of coffee, but what a dramatic flourish and crescendo to end upon!

It could easily be argued that the two or three seconds of sound at the end of the brewing cycle was infinitely more fascinating, passionate, and emotionally arousing than the entire prior portion of the brewing cycle. All of this passion and excitement occurred after my coffeemaker had already gone full speed through processing the limited amount of water it had to work with.

It reminded me of my father’s life; it reminded me how he had already gone full speed through the vast majority of the limited time he had available.

Instead of ending with a wonderfully dramatic, emotional flourish, Alzheimer’s disease is now ending my father’s life in a slow, heartbreaking, anticlimactic manner. He spends his final days in a nursing home.

The mind and personality of the man who had raised me are now long gone; only a familiar face and recognizable voice remain. When I speak to him, there is no longer a spark behind his eyes, indicating that I am sharing a conscious moment with him. He is no longer able to walk without pain. He is no longer able to eat solid food. He is having fewer and fewer “good” days as time goes on.

My mother now cherishes each and every lucid word or sentence that occasionally slips from my father’s lips. “He’s still in there, somewhere,” my mother likes to say. And for a brief moment, her heart becomes just a little bit lighter.

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