Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dear Dementia, I Hate You

One of the most devastating things that happened to me in 2011 and indeed in my life altogether is my dad being diagnosed with dementia. You see, my dad is my hero. He travelled the world for 20 years in the US Navy (seeing 54 countries and literally going around the world). He retired and worked 20 more years for the city sanitation department. He is a hardworking, family oriented, Christian man. He taught me how to be a hard worker, he showed me what it meant to be a Christian and he taught me what it means to be a father.

I have witnessed a horrible mental disease erase parts of who he is. The man that raised me and provided for me now needs me to help him take a bath. Once while bathing him recently he was partially undressed and looked at me with a confused look and asked, “What are we doing?” I lost my mother to ovarian and colon cancer in 2001. In retrospect that seems almost easier than the way I feel with my dad today. I hate dementia. I loathe it. I detest it. I abhor it. It is a monster that is slowly, bit by bit, mercilessly devouring the personality and mentality of my father.

He was in a nursing home for a few weeks and due to insurance and financial reasons was not able to stay. We re-engineered our lives and schedules to allow him to live at home. It’s been a team effort on the part of me, my wife and two of my daughters. I have had the easiest role because I have the least amount of time due to work. I primarily handle his medication and bathing. They have to deal daily with the crazy things dementia drives him to do and say.

I had a big blow up with God over the whole thing when dad came home. I was overwhelmed, crushed, broken and greatly angered. “How could you let this happen to my dad, God?” Answers to questions like that are never easy. Sometimes all we can do is cry out our hearts to the Almighty and then just seek his strength, mercy, grace, love and wisdom. It has not been easy. Some days, dad is like his old self. Many days he is not.

I just remind myself when I am struggling about all the hard work he did raising me. I think of all the years he made sacrifices for me. The least I can do is be there for him at this time.

That brings me to the words of Pat Robertson earlier this week. Robertson was asked on the 700 Club what advice a man should give to a friend who began seeing another woman after his wife started suffering from Alzheimer’s (another incurable neurological disorder like dementia). Take a look at his response:

“I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.”

When pressed about the “through sickness and health” and “’til death do us part” areas of the marriage vow, he responded:

“If you respect that vow, you say ‘til death do us part. This [Alzheimer’s] is a kind of death.”

All I can think to say is, “Really?” So let me get this right, its okay for me to say my dad isn’t my dad anymore because basically he is dead because of this disease he has? I just write him off and get somebody to take care of him? In all likelihood if the disease continues to progress he will eventually not know me, my wife or my daughters, so it just makes sense, right?

No, no and unequivocally NO! He is my dad. Whether he knows me or not I certainly know him. How cruel for Mr. Robertson to say such a thing, to in any shape, form or fashion encourage a spouse to abandon his marriage vow. Such advice is not biblical in any sort of way. His words do not reflect the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ’s love. Mr. Robertson needs to repent and recant or retire. He has developed a talent for making un-Christ-like statements (just look at previous comments about 9-11, Katrina and Haiti to name a few). He is doing no favors for the church or his Savior by saying such things. In fact, he is encouraging people to take sinful actions in this case.

Dear Dementia,
I hate you.

Dear Dad,
I love you.

Dear Pat Robertson,
I am terribly disappointed in you.

(Here is a link for the news article)


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