Circle of Life
by Johanna Voss
I get it. As one person dies, another is born. We come from the Earth and we end up back in the earth when our time is over.
You could be super practical about how the circle unfolds. We are born, move to diapers, then pull ups, transitioning to big kid pants and then back to pull ups and adult diapers before we move onto our next chapter.
As little ones are learning to walk, they grab onto tables, chairs and eventually playthings with wheels - providing stability and making walking a bit easier. On the other end of the circle, adult walkers are introduced (just not as pretty and colorful as the kid version).
You could said I’ve been in the middle of the circle for awhile now. Been out of diapers for decades, no need for walking assistance and pretty much doing well on my own for years now.
With each passing day, I move further and further from the beginning of the circle, from the start of new possibilities. I see the end. I see how loved ones are moving over the peak of the circle (if that’s even possible) and heading towards where the circle brings closure before a new one begins.
Being an incredibly empathetic person, I see the world through the eyes of my parents and their peers. I sympathize with them when we walk into places that have bad acoustics which makes for tricky conversation. I pause to give an extra helping hand with they are balancing extra groceries or bags.
My dad’s dementia has become my new lens on life. Until recently when I saw the world through the eyes of a three year old.
Dear dear friends, Ian and his wife Ali, along with their two daughters (Matilda 3 and Hazel 1) recently visited me in Boulder, CO. It was such a delight to explore Colorado, visit Rocky Mountain National Park and see the world through the eyes of Matilda, an inquisitive and adventurous little girl.
As their trip was wrapping up, and we were sitting having the most delicious lunch at the St Julien hotel in town, my friend Ian asked me how my dad was doing. I shared that he’s stable and how I’ve found comfort in recent weeks after connecting with others who have a parent with early onset.
Ali asked me what it’s like, what the experience of loving someone with early onset dementia is like. She asked me if he still knows who I am and can be alone during the day.
I paused before I answered, the clinking of everyone’s lunch dishes all around me.
I thought for a moment, always searching for the right words, the perfect words to convey what it’s like to love a parent with dementia.
Matilda banged her glass on the table and loudly asked for more watermelon, or melanie as she calls it.
I looked directly at her and the circle of life, came full circle.
Smiling, I responded to Ali and said “It’s kinda like living with a 3 year old.”
Similar to walking down the street with Matilda, we have to keep an eye on my dad at all times because he could, with no bad intentions, wander off and get distracted by the street performer, ice cream vendor or cute dog. He won’t tell us where he’s going which inevitably results with us in a flurry of panic until we find him again.
Sorta like when Matilda wanders off to do the same.
Similar to walking down the street with Matilda, we have to turn to my dad and encourage him to keep walking. He walks, he’s with us, but he’s always 10 or so feet behind, never keeping the same pace. So we stop and start frequently as we wait and encourage him to join us.
Sorta like when Matilda walks down the street.
Similar to walking down the street with Matilda, there’s a lot of repeat questions with my dad about “where are we going?”, “why are we doing this” or “what are we doing next?”
Sorta like when Matilda walks down the street.
Similar to walking down the street with Matilda, my dad is incredibly friendly with no hesitation to stop along the way and talk with strangers, even sharing personal stories and anecdotes. There’s no barrier to stories he keeps private and what news he shares with strangers within 5 minutes of meeting them.
Sorta like when Matilda walks down the street and manages to make friends with everyone she meets, announcing that she has a little sister and lives in OH to anyone who will listen (and most people are captivated by her.)
While my dad isn’t in diapers (and hopefully far from it) nor does he need a walker, spending time with a three year old, highlights this circle of life.
Our parents care for us and in turn, we care for them. That’s the circle of life.
ABOUT Johanna Voss
Johanna Voss is a half marathoner, passport stamp seeker, adventurer and obsessed with all things Spanish. She lives in Boulder, CO and her dad has early onset FTP. Johanna writes about her experiences and more at http://www.mydadhasdementia.co/