He was the most independent man I knew and to see him slipping away was heartbreaking.
His mind had been as sharp as a tack and today when I visited him, he struggled to string a coherent sentence together.
I’d given up on him remembering who I was, I was content to visit to sit with him and when he allowed, to hold his hand.
It was in those moments when he gripped my hand that I came to understand how, despite the disease he was able to show the fear he had to confront.
There had been an unbridgeable gulf between us over time. I know he didn’t wish for it any more than I did. In the rare moments of awareness, I could see in his eyes the fear and puzzlement of why this was happening to him as he was powerless to stop its inexorable taking over of everything he was.
It was those moments of recognition that allowed me to think my dad was still in the body that was once his. So often, he wanted to talk about the past. His mind was somewhere in his youth, he spoke to me as if I was his mate from across the road, his dad when they were out fishing, one of his brothers, long past, but alive in his mind.
My mum was now forgotten, it broke her heart, knowing she had slipped from his memory, but she was left with no option other than to love him as she always had.
With the gap widening, he started to lose his power of speech, he made garbled noises, which somewhere in his brain meant something I’m sure, but left us grasping for meaning.
Some days he said nothing but looked out the window of his room, his eyes fixed on the flowering rose bush outside his window but his mind lost in a lifetime of memory.
We’d take our leave, breathe deeply wondering how much longer he would linger, it wasn’t pleasant for any of us, the only salvation was, for the most part, knowing he was oblivious to what was happening to him.