During the last few years of my father’s life, I had an incredible opportunity to journey back in time with him to discover the essence of his personhood. As his journey with Alzheimer’s peeled away the carefully crafted layers of his life history, I learned to pay attention to what was unfolding. Our visits together became a journey back through time, one that offered me the precious opportunity to better view the unencumbered essence around which my Dad’s life had been built.
Spending time together in this loving and enlightening time machine, his life as an electrical engineer vanished and soon he and I, no longer remembered as his son but rather a dear friend he had come to know, shared his vivid experiences during WWII. This emotionally charged part of his life had deeply etched memories. I got to know the young soldier as he recounted the good and bad of those war experiences, as well as his relationships with fellow soldiers/friends who were now back among the living.
As time passed, WWII slipped into oblivion, and my father and I revisited teenage years; years replete with the newly reconstructed reality of his essence as an artist. He shared with me that he, his brother and father had been together just the day before. He confided in me that this resort hotel (an Alzheimer’s home to those not privileged to share his vision) was a favorite place that they liked to go to relax. He happily recounted what they had done, giving me insights into feelings he had that I would never have known had we not traveled together, raconteur and avid listener.
Although the journey was often emotionally wrenching, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to discover the essence and building blocks of the wonderful person that was, and always will be, my beloved father.
Many of those we love, who are on their journey through the history and insights that dementia at times unlocks, may have stories to share with willing listeners. One way to help motivate their journey that you can share can be through the use of Caring Conversation Cards, available here on the Dementia Action Alliance’s website.
You may find such a Dementia Guided tour rewarding for both you and your loved one.