Another difficult day has passed with a sad story about life to tell. Nothing prepares you for the experience of watching your father completely lose himself. But that’s the reality of primary aggressive aphasia.
In its beginning, it only affected his speech. For example, one Seahawk Sunday, we were watching the game, as we always did back when he could follow it. Blair Walsh missed the game-winning field goal against the Arizona Cardinals and knocked us out of the playoffs.
It was an intense moment in the room, as we all hopped to our feet. Joining my father already standing in his — Seahawks win games in the fourth quarter spot of his living room.
From 48, the kick. It’s not good.
He missed the field gold! The, (pause) Field, (pause) Gold…Gold?
**dwindling tone** No. Wait a minute. That’s not right.
Watching my father’s face attempt to make sense of his inability to properly say, field goal, is tragic. And he’s absolutely correct. There is nothing right about watching a loved one have a cognitive understanding of their active decline.
Furthermore, not being able to do anything about it. It’s cruel. And it’s something I believe everyone should know. Because it doesn’t discriminate and it strikes without warning. Value your time.
Setting up the Lunch Date
The day before my lunch date with dad, I asked my stepmom to have him pick out the restaurant. Also, to gather his order to bypass the confusion experienced prior. Furthermore, to avoid the uncomfortableness of him behaving abnormally. Especially, out in public viewing. Today’s world is unkind.
But That’s A Sad Story About Life for Another Time
Last time my father and I had lunch, we visited a usual spot. It’s a Chinese restaurant that we’ve frequented over the last 20+ years. In fact, father and daughter karaoke nights use to be our thing.
A waitress who has been there forever approached the table with menus and asked if we were ready to order before we had even opened them.
I realize that she doesn’t understand my father’s developed this condition and I attempt to control the situation. But unfortunately, I’m unable to make eye contact. Her head planted firmly into her ticket book. Anxious and eager to flip her tables.
My Dad Typically Orders,
Szechuan chicken, or shrimp, with none of that nasty broccoli on the plate. Yuck. I don’t know how anyone eats that stuff.
Followed by gagging theatrics and lots of laughter. Most of the staff know him and join his bellowing. He gives his further specifications. And often the waitress is able to recite them along with him,
I like those crispy white noodles instead. Medium spicy and an extra side of chili sauce. Not the paste but the one with the actual chili’s. Please and thank you.
On that day, our waitress wasn’t tuned in. Furthermore, my dad refuses to listen to me and is agitated by my help. I didn’t want to argue loudly with him. So he didn’t heed my suggestion. Unfortunately, her eagerness to take our order and his confusion resulted in almond chicken for lunch.
My dad detests almond chicken. In fact, for years he believed he didn’t like Chinese food because of this specific dish.
Naturally, the food came and he was upset the entire meal. Shifting the chicken from side to side on his plate. Pouting and unable to hide his disdain for the foreign meal in front of him. Retreating to a whining voice and childlike tantrum even.
Going back and forth. Between muttering to himself and loudly exclaiming about every third word of the sentence he’s trying to speak.
Yeah, can’t is?
Yeah, yuck. I can’t eat this. What is this?
And it’s mentally draining attempting to follow along. Eventually, I begin to piece the words together. But it takes several repeats. He gets impatient and mad if you give up. It’s exhausting. I’m a little off track here.
But That’s the Thing With a Sad Story About Life
A deeper-rooted backstory condensing the magnitude of its sorrow often accompanies.
So, back to yesterday, I picked my father up for lunch. His hands tremble now and he can’t fasten his seat belt. But it doesn’t deter him from attempting to and stuttering through his go-tos,
You know they make them so much more complicated now.
You need to line it perfectly with its center or the damn thing won’t click.
Aaaaah! Forget it. Here. You go ahead and do it.
He doesn’t hide his disgust with his defeat and it’s hard to see him so frail. My nail slices through his paper-thin skin while assisting him to click the belt. Dad’s skin resembles my grandmother’s skin now. When did that happen? It feels like it was overnight. I comment on it and we both laugh and make our way to the restaurant.
Dining Out With Dad
The waitress approaches our table and I calmly order his shrimp with onion rings instead of chips. Shit! I don’t know what beverage he normally consumes with his fried shrimp. And my anxiety is brewing.
Customers pour into the establishment. As a former waitress, I’ve already surveyed that she is alone. A party of six and two couples walks in. In addition, there are three people at the bar. I excuse her and tell my dad we will figure it out and she can come back because she can’t just wait here. But he says he’s ready and stutters for another 30 seconds.
I tell her it’s okay to come back. She politely and graciously escapes and greets her new parties. I try to help him find his words and begin tossing out beverage suggestions. He gets excited when I say beer but it’s not exactly what he wants.
Is this the Part of the Sad Story About Life Where You Start Drinking Before Noon?
Is it a mixed cocktail he desires at 11:15 in the morning? The waitress is back and I don’t know. What is he trying to communicate?
Ah, ah, you know, uh, come on now. It’s that thing. I know what it is. It’s, doggone it.
Finally, we are able to determine that he wants a glass of Pinot Grigio. I didn’t realize he consumed wine before dinner hours and don’t think he does often. Especially, by the behavior that proceeded. After the waitress delivers the drinks, my dad suddenly becomes shifty.
Do you see them? That’s a lot of cops.
He says, regarding the party of six officers behind us. Oddly, he’s alarmed by them and begins acting paranoid. Drawing attention to his drinking activities multiple times over the course of our meal.
They’re looking over here at me. They’re probably thinking, um, you know, um, yeah you know. Yeah. Yeah.
I don’t know but can only assume by his demeanor that he felt guilt or shame drinking his wine. It’s disturbing to watch. But if I was in his position, I’d likely order some Jesus juice too. Fuck it. Emotions bubble to the surface and he decides now is the time to open up about how he feels.
My Father’s Emotional Fragility Makes Me Uncomfortable
And I don’t know how to handle it. He swirls the wine in his glass as his eyes well up. He manages to string a few sentences along sometimes and coherently musters these words,
It’s not fair. You know. I thought I would retire and do things. I had a lot of things to do. But life had other plans. **tears swelling in the corners of both eyes**
Now, I’m not done but I can’t do anything.
But you know, you just have to remember — this is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
He can’t actually recite the scripture accurately anymore. However, I know Psalm 118:24 and am able to complete it for him. He is excited by this and nods his head. Eyes wide and teary. I’ve never seen my father scared like this before. It’s unsettling.
The Drive Back to His House
My dad needs an extra minute before we drive away. A second attempt is often required to get the door properly shut. Again, I remind him to buckle up and watch him struggle to grab the shoulder strap.
I buckle him in and we head towards home. I begin making small talk about the leaves changing colors. But he’s not listening and I see his wheels turning. He interrupts,
Hey, now. Doggone it. This is what, wait.
My eyes divert from the road to watch my father poke at the air above the cupholder with his toothpick. He used to have a pill bottle with toothpicks in his car and I’m curious if that’s what he is searching for.
He never is able to formulate why he’s stabbing the air with his toothpick and when he realizes I’m watching, he begins rambling.
No. I know I’m not in my car.
Wait, this is my car.
There used to be Kleenex.
Well now this isn’t right. Wait. Ah, ha. Uh.
Battling Being a Selfish Person is Part of My Sad Story About Life
I can’t take it but I must. So I do. I’m watching him lose his mind and he’s trying to convince me that he’s not. Elaborating, it’s his aphasia and that it’s his speech that is failing him. But it’s so much more. It’s pathetic and very difficult to witness. Furthermore, I don’t know what to say or how to handle it. So I smile and nod along. Appeasing his deteriorating mind.
Honestly, on the inside, I’m annoyed by him trying to hide it when it’s so obvious and he’s not fooling anyone. Why is he trying to hide something we know is happening? How selfish am I?
What’s wrong with me? He can’t help himself and I’m bothered by his behavior. It honestly annoys me and it’s intolerable at times. I wish he would just sit still, be quiet, and appreciate hearing my stories for a change. But I’m growing into a woman with a magnitude of traits that he loathes.
In fact, I’ve become everything he hates and he has zero interest in my personal growth and newfound freedom. It’s as if God knew I couldn’t grow into my own person until my father couldn’t berate her for it. Never intentionally. Always under the philosophy of — love the sinner, hate the sin, of course.
So I keep my mouth shut to avoid confrontation. What small talk can I make that he won’t turn into a heated political debate? My father has centered his entire life around American politics and it’s his biggest passion. It’s all he ever talks about, besides Jesus, and himself.
A Sad Story About Life is Realizing You’ve Matured Beyond Your Elders Ability to Engage in Civil Discourse
A conversation is difficult to hold but silence is impossible for my dad. He chatters incessantly because he lives to entertain. Stuttering over ideas that make sense in his mind but he can’t articulate them for my understanding. So he waves his hands around in frustration and angrily wails whatever words manage to form,
Wait a minute! Where’s my. Now. Now. Um. UH. Doggone it. Hang on. My, um, my….
My dad frantically looks around the car and I know it means he is most-likely searching for one of two things. His keys or his wallet. These are daily and triggered re-occurrences. But they usually happen at the house. I don’t know what triggers them.
Something sets his mind off and he jumps up into action. A gut-wrenching cycle that repeats throughout his day. The case of the missing keys and/or wallet. But he doesn’t realize this reality and he won’t remember to avoid it next time. So I’ve watched him repeat it several times in a single day. I try to reassure him.
Are you looking for your wallet dad? I watched you put it into your pocket. You’re okay.
Oh no I’m not. No! I did not. I don’t have it! Now. Wait a minute.
At least I think that’s what he was trying to say. His tone is crass and I know he’s angry with frustration. The terror in his voice shakes, as he pats himself down and stares at the floorboard beneath his feet.
Immediate Action Isn’t Always Prudent
He wants me to pull over right now but can’t get the words out to tell me to do so. His breathing escalates to anxious, loud and open-mouthed. And I can actually feel his energy’s alarm. My own heart speeds up.
Dad. I’m going to pull over in a safe spot for you to check your pockets again. But it’s not a big deal. We can drive back to the restaurant if need be.
His breathing gets heavier and it’s obvious he’s flustered and upset. I pull over and try to get into his pockets.
Now, wait. What are you, it’s not here. I don’t have it now, wait. Let me.
His words are choppy and jumbled. Sometimes he forms words that belong earlier in the sentence, after the fact. Even jumbling the words, I’m still able to detect the message sometimes. His anxiety worsens the aphasia. Barely able to speak any words coherently at all.
Now, you… I, I, now. Have. Wait. Me, me…let. Don’t have.
Regardless of upsetting him, I know I have to reach across and get his wallet from his other pocket. We can’t remain pulled over on the curb. I know it’s there but me volunteering this information doesn’t bring him peace.
After feeling his pocket for the wallet’s indicating square, I assure him it’s there. But that’s not enough. My poor father. He’s stuck in his worst nightmare.
Now. Now. Uh, hang on.
I watch his withered hands tremble, as he maneuvers for his wallet. His glasses fall towards the tip of his nose. We must sit there, (so we do) while he processes that his wallet is in his front pocket. And not in his back pocket where he’s carried it his entire life. Only he doesn’t vocalize any of it.
I’m reading this tragic and sad story about life by the expressions on his face.
If I attempted to drive away at this moment it would only further upset him. So, I don’t. Additionally, I watched him put his wallet away. Three times, I told him he needed to put his card back.
I totaled it for you with tip dad and here’s the receipt to go into your wallet with your card.
Wow. Is that a new wallet dad? Don’t forget to put your card away.
And about that receipt dad. Do you have a special place in your wallet you keep them?
But I already know he doesn’t. And I simply want him to open his wallet so that I can assist in putting them away. Not wanting to disrespect him by forcefully grabbing it and doing it for him. Furthermore, I didn’t want to insult or anger him.
A Previous Trip to the Grocery Store Triggered Him
The last time I took my dad to the grocery store he couldn’t get his card into his wallet. It fell to the floor in the middle of the busy entrance and exit area of the market. I attempted to grab it and he snarls at me.
I got it. Now. Just wait.
Pushing his hands at me in frustration. There are shoppers behind us with full carts and new faces coming towards us. I’m embarrassed and don’t want to be a spectacle. Furthermore, I’m annoyed that he won’t allow me to do it. This is our second grocery store stop of the day.
People make eye contact passing both ways. Some eyes lock with their complete annoyance about having to walk around us. How dare we be human and have human experiences. Others extend a sympathetic head nod and a half-hearted smile. But none stop to offer help.
If Only We Loved Our Neighbor Instead of Passing Them by.
Ironically, a stranger being neighborly and offering assistance he will accept. He values the interaction with new people and it brightens up his day. It’s why he’s always cherished his daily trips to the grocery store. Also, why there are two stores on every outing.
It provides an opportunity to run into a familiar face. To chat it up with the stranger in line. And there’s always an audience. He desires one so. Anyone who knows my father (in his able past) knows he is spotted at Safeway, multiple times a day. He’s shopped there faithfully, our entire lives.
Heartbreaking Signs of My Father’s Primary Progressive Aphasia
He walks and behaves in a continuous loop. Surveying my father make his usual confusing trip to the mailbox for yet, another time tears me apart. He doesn’t sit still, at all. There isn’t a time where we can sit and watch something together for a break. He must remain ambulant.
Watching him struggle to put on his old, bright-blue, Boeing jacket is hard. But I can’t offer help too quickly. Otherwise, he becomes agitated and struggles to express that he’ll get it on himself. Despite already putting it on upside down, twice.
Additionally, he has a one sleeve dance. Swaying back and forth between putting his left arm in and out of its sleeve. Searching for his right sleeve that’s dangling at his left side. After waving his right arm around in circles above his head and unsuccessfully locating the sleeve at his left side; he withdraws his left arm and tries again.
Eventually, he succeeds or accepts help. But not without explaining why he’s struggling with it and it’s never because he’s deteriorating, right before our eyes.
Somewhere in Time
Yesterday, I took a picture of my father and I’m not sure why. I was taking photos of the beautiful flowers, (featured in this post) and I observed a moment. A reflection of the confusion and chaos encompassing my father’s mind stared back at me through my camera’s lens. Minutes pass and he doesn’t move from this stance.
Why is my father in a face-off with his mailbox instead of crossing the street? Additionally, why is he out here again? I witnessed him stroll out earlier to get the mail. My dad looks so lost and I can’t help him find himself.
We head inside and I encourage him to sit down and watch the television with me. He concurs but can’t offer up anything he wants to watch. Pacing back and forth between the kitchen and the living rooms.
How about Seinfeld? Or Friends? Want to get in some good ole classic laughs daddio?
Still pacing, his lips whisper and his eyes survey his surrounding space. Both hands are palm up, as he shakes them while attempting to speak each of his concerns.
The Inability to Communicate is a Tragic Outcome of Primary Progressive Aphasia
Unfortunately, he can’t get out his words and I can’t connect his dots. Anger is provoked by the constant frustration and confusion. His eyes emanate overwhelming panic. Something is wrong but he can’t explain it.
My dad gets up from his chair and goes into the kitchen. But this time I follow. I hate seeing him like this. He begins rummaging through the junk drawer and works himself into a visually frightening frenzy.
What is it dad? Is it something that’s dire and requires immediate attention or can it wait until she gets home?
He desperately tries to piece together the words to explain his actions. And grows increasingly disheartened by his inability to do so. A sad story about life is losing your last years of life to this mind-crippling disease.
Are you looking for your keys again dad?**visibly dangling from his pants pocket**
He says yes but it’s clear that is not it. And when I reach for his keys he is angered. Finally, he is able to articulate that it’s the mail keys he is searching so desperately for. The intensity in his search is amplified with fear that suggests he absolutely needs to find them. His entire energy is piercing and screaming at me,
The Inability to Recall Short Term Activities is Cursed
My dad agrees to venture out with me but he is certain they aren’t there. My mind revisits the image of my father in a staredown with his mailbox moments ago. Furthermore, my heart sinks into my chest at the prospect of finding the keys hanging from the mailbox lock.
Because I know that he will start to make excuses about how he isn’t the one who left them there. The excuses he comes up with are like a little kid lying in your face. It’s sad and difficult to fully process as his daughter.
Our entire walk he attempts to convince me that they aren’t there. It makes more sense in his head that somebody else took or misplaced them. Unfortunately, for his ego, the keys are dangling in the lock. I attempt to remove them and he expresses concern.
Wait, wha what are you doing?
I’m getting the key. This is your mailbox number, right dad?
Well, I don’t know. And that’s the thing. I’m not sure we should…
My Attempts to Comfort Him Always Fail. He Rarely Knows Peace
I cut him off to inform him that it’s his box. Mail addressed to him is inside and I grab it and close it shut. While he stares past the mailbox, I observe his facial expressions. He’s so confused, I look away and tell him to follow me.
Well, we can’t. We don’t have the key. Now, I need to find it.
My father’s tone is anxious and sometimes a fit of mild anger comes through. With bouts of frequency, increasing over time.
I uncup my hand and wave the key at him. Reassuring him that it’s fine and it startles him. How has he not processed that I found the key? He stares blankly at the mail in his hand and I escort him back home.
He begins to explain how it’s a good thing I suggested a trip out here. Because he knew the keys weren’t here. Claiming he already checked earlier. Furthermore, he alludes to an angel putting them there.
Unwilling to admit, or genuinely remember, (I can’t tell which) that he left the keys out there. But got distracted in his mind and never finished checking the mail earlier in the day. I meekly suggest he may have forgotten and he dismisses it heatedly. It’s a sad story about life and I feel helpless to change its outcome.
A defeating feeling is knowing that he won’t be able to check the mail soon. It’s one of the last daily outdoor-activities my dad genuinely delights in. He loves to,
Get outside and stretch my legs.
My Tears Don’t Drop, They Fall In My Sad Story About Life
In Washington state, there is a rainfall that floods your windshield suddenly. You turn your radio down to gain better vision. Red lights are all that you make out as you carefully tap your own brakes to slow down.
It’s vicious, thunderous, and completely out of nowhere. Taking I-5 traffic speed down to a crawl. Your wipers on full blast cannot maintain visibility.
But Washington weather never fails to change directions. Typically, those torrential downpours last minutes, at most. These rainfalls emulate my new tears. They are odd and it feels strange shedding them. There’s no form to their drops. I shut my eyes and a blanket of water rushes my cheeks.
Just My Imagination Escaping This Sad Story About Life
It’s how I imagine it feels like if you place yourself into your vehicle’s shoes going through a car wash. Her windshield’s glass is as vulnerable as your eyes. Suddenly, soap shoots into them and burns without warning. Long, lash-like-flaps, slam down onto the glass.
I’m feeling that force every time I shut my eyes. Their lashes soak my cheeks with tremendous pressure. Rinsing and cleansing the uncomfortableness away. Those helpless feelings and devastating realization that you have zero control.
Your wheels are stuck in this track and you have no place to go but forward. Through each phase of the cleansing process. And they hit you so quickly. The hot air of your hot head suppresses your tears. Like the water being blown from the car after its transformation. It surrenders to the situation and is grateful for the warm breeze blowing them forward.
In the same way, a vehicle needs a car wash periodically, my eyes expel their rainfalls. And it seems my vehicle is in the car wash every day now. It’s torture watching someone you love — disappear into themselves.
Lessons I’m Learning From My Sad Story About Life
- Make time to spend with loved ones. Especially, your kiddos.
- Circumstances change without warning.
- Don’t wait until tomorrow to pursue your passions.
- You can’t go back in time, so say and do it now.
- Get rid of negativity. Cut negative people out.
- Control is an illusion and always has been.
- Parents become old overnight and are more difficult than our children.
- Life isn’t fair but be grateful to be alive.
- Rejoice in the Lord always and be glad in it. And again, I say, Rejoice.
- Prayer and forgiveness are important for healing.
Thank you for reading. Did you learn anything from this story? Please share in the comments below. Also, please visit my heroin recovery story if you’re interested in knowing part of my story. Or, for some unusual craziness, check out my experience as an accidental Scientologist at Scientology rehab.
And hey, let me know a little more about you in the comments below. Follow me on Facebook. Thank you for reading and sharing my sad story about life. Tell somebody that you love them every day.