• CELEBRATING BUFFALO TOGETHER
    #totallybuffalo

    CELEBRATING BUFFALO TOGETHER
    #TOTALLY BUFFALO

 

It went from a kick-in-the-gut to pure joy.

I’ve been counting down the minutes until our trip to Florida. For months. Literally.

Sure, I was excited to get in the sun, sand, and ocean. Excited to see my sister and brother-in-law. But this trip was mainly about my dad. My amazing dad. His 80th birthday was coming and we’ve been planning his party for months. I could not wait. We planned a Kentucky Derby party for my pops, who’s always been a horse guy. Mint Juleps. Big Hats. And lots of people.

My husband, girls and I flew down on a Friday morning. The party was Sunday. (My Maria couldn’t come – which we were all sad about)

We went to the nursing home to see my dad. God, I love him. And miss him terribly. So we get there and there he was. He looked good. I gave him a huge hug. He looked at me with a blank stare. The truth is – he had no idea who I was. Not a clue. I was devastated. It felt like someone kicked me in the stomach. One of the worst feelings ever.

I talk to him, FaceTime with him, but haven’t seen him in months.

He didn’t know me.

ME.

His baby. His favorite (I think so, anyway).

I was so angry. I hate dementia so much. SO MUCH.  It’s not fair. Here’s this man who has basically done everything for me – my entire life – and he didn’t know me. The man who was more like a best friend than a dad – and he didn’t know me. The man I could tell anything to – and did – and he didn’t know me. It hurt. A lot.

But, it’s part of life with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.

You just live with it. And hope the next day is better.

It was.

Thank God.

And Sunday – at the party – with around 50 people was better, too. My dad knew every single person there. He knew all of us. He was so happy. He was quiet. He was observant. He was happy. It was really quite amazing.

And confusing.

How did he go from not knowing ME. To knowing me and everyone else?

It’s what happens.

The pain of walking into that room – and have my dad not recognize me was hurtful and it triggered some strong emotions. That’s normal. For him, with Alzheimer’s Disease. And for me – with a dad with Alzheimer’s Disease.

It took me some time to realize that my dad had not forgotten about me. He hadn’t forgotten his daughter. I think maybe he remembered me as a little girl that day. Maybe. I’m not sure.

What I am sure about – is that watching a loved one go through the stages of Alzheimer’s Disease is heartbreaking. Watching someone I love experience mental pain – and knowing there’s NOTHING I can do – is heartbreaking.

That’s why soaking in those good times is what’s most important. Like we did at the party. Leaning in and sharing a private joke. Smiling across the room and knowing we’re both thinking the same thing. Hugging goodbye and praying he’ll remember again next time. Those moments are key. It’s not easy. Not by a long shot. But necessary. I do it. I try.

Once I get home, I’ll plan another trip back. And I’ll count the minutes until I’m there.

 

 

Mary Friona

Mary Friona

Following my heart with my husband and four daughters. An Emmy Award winning journalist lucky enough to work in television & radio for 20 years - seeing wonderful places, meeting great people and telling their stories.

Comments (10)

  • Avatar

    Kelly

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    Oh Mary. My father had it also. Be happy your dad is celebrating 80. My father died at 64. He would have been 69 on the 24th of this month. My heart goes out to you honey. His and kisses.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Mary Friona

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      I’m sorry for your loss. I am very grateful to still have him.

      Reply

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    Patrivia Staebell

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    Such a well-written article and so heartfelt…I have not had the experience of a family member or friend (diagnosed at 65) that did not recognize me, so I cannot imagine how deep that would hurt. You are a terrific writer and hope you know that your dad loves you with all of his heart…even if, at times, he may not recognize you. Visit him as often as your life as a working mom and wife will allow….❤

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Terri McDonald-Gale

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    Mary,

    So sad for you and your Dad! Thank you for sharing something so personal with all of us. It only makes you more endearing! I was lucky that my parents (and I) never had to deal with this. Lost my Mom at 78 to lung cancer and my Dad two years ago at 92 to a plethra of issues! I’m praying for your Dad (and you!)

    Reply

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    M Bergman

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    Hi Mary,

    Alzheimer’s is tough. My Grandma Jean battled it for 12 years and lived with us growing up. As you know, she and my Grandpa Ed were my heroes (and always will be). Hang in there and know that even on the bad days, your dad loves you and carries you in his heart even if he can’t always express it verbally or be cognizant of it easily as the disease progresses. Sending love, prayers, and light your way.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Mary Friona

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      Thank you! I know. I appreciate your advice. Sorry you had to go through it.

      Reply

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    Paulette Bartolomei

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    Dear Mary, a beautiful painful story. So glad you guys had such a loving 80th party for your pops, sounds like he had a good day. ❤
    Regards,
    Paulette

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Santa Coniglio

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    HI Mary;

    Your story was beautiful, yet hear-wrenching. We also watched my mom suffer through Alzheimers. She called us terrible names, even tried to hit my sister. That hurt. BUT, the worst was when we realized she saw us, but didn’t know us!! We like to believe that she “felt” the love we had for her, regardless of whether she knew us or not! I call this disease the devil – it steals your mind, your pride, your dignity, your life! Caregivers have it so hard. We thank God for Hospice – we were blessed enough to be able to keep her home with the help of Hospice. She passed 718/14. God BLess your dad and your family… Sandy

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Mary Friona

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      I’m sorry you had to deal with that with your mom. Thank you for sharing.

      Reply

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