We cross the road in a hurry, I literally drag Dad across a busy intersection, pinching his elbow to enact pace. My Frogger gaming skills take crossing the road from the worst kind of physical nightmare to a strategy performance. Bikes, trams, cars and other pedestrians all speeding through, around and beyond, we make it to the next level.
Arriving at our destination, I am having a hard and fast realisation, that the roles of father and son are almost completely reversed. We had traveled together some 5 years before and discussed frankly how we would maintain the integrity of our relationship. My Dad has Alzheimer’s but he is still my Dad.
No more than right now do I feel the pull to be the Dad he taught me to be, to my own kids but also the son he needs me to be, as he deteriorates. I am emotionally stretched by the effort of equal priorities, a mental quandary I had never imagined. We messily navigate hallways at the council building as I start to think the worst, him wet and uncomfortable and our plans to sort out some mundane life administration thwarted, yet again. My anxiety is building and he starts telling jokes. Eventually, with some community assistance and a lot of drama, Dad makes it, crisis averted, we have a real laugh.
My siblings, with all our young families, are trying to manage Dad’s illness with all the emotional kindness and physical resources we possess. There is a small wedge, we occupy different rooms in Dad’s heart and head, we are varied and we care for him differently, each one of us measuring our own priorities against his imminent and long term needs. We are his next of kin and there is a bitterness that this responsibility has fallen to us, so early in his life and ours. I spend another day off work scouting elderly residencies with 24/7 care, hoping that Dad will ease his resistance to a home away from home sooner rather than later.
- Frederick's story as told to Nat Power
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