I’m Not Giving Up, I’m Pausing
by Dr. Beth Nolan,
PAC Director of Research and Policy
"Why haven’t you gone to see him in a while?"
I asked my husband, Tim, as he made himself a sandwich. It had been almost two weeks since his last visit with his dad, and this was totally out of the ordinary.
"I just haven’t had the time," was his cagey reply. But I knew that wasn’t the case, and the first red flag I missed.
"Oh. Time." I reflected, but pressed. "Is it figuring out what to do with him or something else?"
Without looking up, he mumbled, "Yeah, something like that. He’s just different, now." Oh! Now this, this I could fix! The second red flag, of my own making, that I missed.
His dad had recently transitioned to a more, Ruby GEMS State, in which his skill to communicate with words was largely missing. His view was a monocular area somewhere on his lap, as the vascular dementia in his brain pulled his body into a strong C-shaped hunch, tilting to his dominant right side as he sat in his wheelchair.
Before this, his father’s extensive vocabulary as a teacher and grant reviewer sustained his humor and funny, rhythmic retorts well beyond where many lose words to the disease. Tim and his dad would mumble through car magazines, chit-chat in half sentences about Michigan cities of his youth, and find teasing moments with a big U.S. State puzzle.
"Ok, so here’s what I’m thinking: we’ve got some of his old tools, and we could--"
"Stop!" He stood frozen at the counter, staring through his half-made sandwich. He haltingly, softly, continued.
"I. Know. What. We. Can. Do. Together." He took a deep breath and blew it out. "I just need you to know that I am not able to be with him right now in this new place. I need some time. And when I am ready to truly be there with him, I will go, and I will enjoy my dad again."
Tim had more than I had that day. He knew that he was grieving too much to give his dad what he needed: a son who could be present enough to see his humor, his reaction to familiar songs, and his soft touch. Today though, Tim knew it was enough to simply acknowledge his grief, take a deep breath, and see if maybe tomorrow he could see what was possible.