Happy Birthday Dad

On the 26th of April 1942, my father was born. Today is his 73rd birthday.
Watching him dozing on the sofa beside me, I see the man that worked so hard to provide for his family. I see the man that made sure we were never without. He, along with my mom, made sure that I saw the very best orthodontist to rectify the problems with my teeth, and endeavoured to see it through to the end. All the long journeys, the surgeries, the overnight hospital stays. On top of that, they always had a new gift to cheer me up at the end of it and help aid my recovery.
I shudder to think of the expense of my treatment, but they never once mentioned the cost of it all.

I see dozens of images of my dad flash through my mind. Memories of him driving, sitting in the garden reading the newspaper, laughing with my mom, timekeeping at the swimming galas that my sister and I used to attend, adding another sticker to his growing collection on the back of his 4×4, deciding which hat he will wear from his hat collection, falling asleep on the sofa, working at his desk until 4am, the list goes on…

I remember the first time I saw my dad cry. I had gone into surgery for my teeth, but the doctors hadn’t detected that I had pneumonia and it caused complications with the surgery. I wasn’t waking up from the anaesthesia and my parents were worried I wouldn’t wake up at all. I eventually woke in the early hours of the next morning, and when I did, there he was waiting for me to wake up. I will always remember how he walked over to me with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face, a look of such relief at the knowledge that I was going to be okay. I can’t imagine having woken up without him there with those tears in his eyes.

I realise that I don’t know everything about my Dad. Born in England, his family left for Africa in his teens. Some of his life was lived in the likes of Kenya, where he was a part of the Kenyan regiment. He had a lot of stories to share about his days there where, I learned, he also used to race motorbikes. Apparently my old Dad was quite the rogue, always managing to get up to something. He later moved to South Africa and then finally to the country of my birth, Swaziland, where he founded a football team and raced rally cars with my mom. Later on he started his own company and worked day and night to try and make it a success and provide for his family.

I wish I could learn more about my dad, and the adventures he got up to at my age. I wish that I could sit and have a long conversation with him, laugh with him and learn from him.I wish I could thank him for everything he did for us. I wish it could be so, but it can’t…. My father has Alzheimers.

So, Dad, I may not be able to have a conversation with you, tell you about my day, get your advice or laugh and reminisce about the good old days…but I will always, always love you with all of my heart. Happy Birthday Dad, I love you.

A thief unseen

There is a thief that stalks among us, stealing that which is most precious to us, whether we realize it or not. It steals that which some of us take for granted, realizing too late just how much we valued the thief’s target. It’s the case of you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.

My run in with the thief in question came about a few years back, a water tap left running in the bathroom. A simple mistake, we all do it, we can all be scatterbrains sometimes. Then it happened again. No one knew who it was that had left the tap on…was it a faulty tap perhaps?? Inspection of the tap proved otherwise, it was in perfect working order. We couldn’t understand what was going on. Then one day the question was answered. Desperately needing the toilet, i rushed in to the bathroom as my father stepped out after having a shower, after a second I became aware of the sound of running water….the tap. My father had been forgetting to turn off the tap after his morning shave.

What did this mean? He had been struggling to remember a few things like peoples names and names of places etc, but i took it as normal. We all forget these kind of things.

But the thief had his target….and his target was my father.

As the weeks and months went by there were more occasions of taps left running and forgetting were important items had been placed etc. It was clear to us all that something was wrong, the full extent of which we perhaps were too afraid to accept for fact. My father however knew, he knew what it was.  A couple of brain scans later and the doctors in charge gave him the all clear. ” it’s perfectly normal” they said.

 

They lied.

 

As the months went by, the thief went to work. He worked well and he worked fast.

Taps were the least of our worries now. In the car with my father one day, I realized he had forgotten the way home. Soon he could no longer drive at all, forgetting firstly which side of the road on which to drive then how to operate the vehicle at all. All this to a man who was once a rally driver.

Soon he couldn’t even make himself a cup of coffee.

Finally after we lost everything, we were forced to move here to London. That is when the thief made his grande finale and finished the job in a day I will never forget.

3 days after arriving in London, staying in a bed and breakfast, my father began shouting at my family and I, that we were conspiring against him. He wouldn’t let us get away with it…whatever it is was that we were doing. We couldn’t understand what was going on.  We moved into a house later that day and he seemed to calm down a bit, a few days went by and it came back more furious than ever. I chased after my father as he stormed out the house knowing he would not be able to find his way back. After so much pleading he finally came home with me. When we were finally registered, we took him to the doctor. We knew what we would find…but we found more than what we bargained for.

 

Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s and severe dementia.

My father is now but a shadow of the man he used to be. He cannot speak, he needs round the clock care, to be washed, fed and toileted.

Alzheimer’s is a thief that cannot be caught and cannot be stopped. Alzheimer’s stole the man that my father used to be.

There are many things that i wish i could change, but now it is too late. My time with my father was stolen from me and i will never get it back. He cannot say my name anymore, he cannot speak. I know though, that deep down inside somewhere he is there, seeing and knowing….i just want him to know that i love him with all my heart and soul and i always will.

He will always be my father.