Burn It Up
by Alexis Del Cid
This morning when I opened my eyes, I felt a sadness and a sickness inside. I desperately wanted for it to be dark and rainy, so I could pull the covers over my face. But the daylight was streaming through my blinds. I had a wicked case of the blues. I got up and tried not to look at the kitchen where the dishes were piled in the sink, next to the empty dishwasher. The house was silent.
Last night was a rough one in our Alzheimer’s Journey. My husband and son are out of town for the weekend, so I went out to dinner with my parents, and my aunt. It was the kind of evening that chipped away another piece of my heart.
My dad couldn’t read the menu. Several times he tried to chew the lime wedge from his drink, fishing it out with his hands. For a few minutes, he sat with his eyes closed, almost as if he was sleeping sitting up. I was so afraid he’d have a sundowners episode in the restaurant and we’d have to call 911. At the end of the meal, I realized he was mistakenly eating the skin from the bottom of his fish. I felt so protective of him. I wanted to stand up with a megaphone. I wanted to make a public announcement. I wanted to go table to table in the restaurant, telling everyone, “That’s my sweet dad! My first love. Please understand! He’s not himself. He is the smartest, sharpest, funniest person you would ever meet! He’s not strange. He’s my hero. He’s my dad and he has a terrible disease that is evaporating his brain. Please understand.” The night ended fine. We all got home safe and sound.
Grief: The only path is through. You have to go through it.
I brushed my teeth and went to my parents’ house this morning because I simply could not think of anything else to do. My dad opened the door, delighted to see me. Clearly, he had no memory of anything that happened the night before. “There’s my girl!” he announced. I hugged him and I burst into tears.
We sat down as he put his arm around me. I didn’t tell him I was crying over him. I promised myself I would never cry to him, about him. Instead, I told him something else, that is also true. I told him I was feeling sad and anxious about getting older, and that I missed being little again. I told him I had the blues. I told him I wished I could turn back time and go back to him making the decisions for me, like when I was little.
“Wait a minute! Wait. A. Minute,” he said, stopping my words, as he held me away from him at arm’s length with his bright eyes. He smiled and looked into my eyes. “For all these years now, you’ve made some wonderful decisions! You’ve married a wonderful man. You have a beautiful son. You’ve built a wonderful life! Those are your decisions.”
I cried harder.
“Well if you can’t be happy right now, have a good cry. That’s what I always say.”
He hugged me again. And then he said something I’ll remember until the day I die.
“You only get one life. Enjoy it! Burn it up.”
Alexis Del Cid is a journalist and TV anchor for The University of Kansas Health System Medical News Network.
She Is also an EMMY winner.
She can be reached at:
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