In Sunday’s post I mentioned a Facebook group called Memory People, a network of patients, caregivers, family members, and advocates who have been touched by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. One of my new friends is Linda Wilkins, and she is caring for her daddy Dan Willaford. She recently had a conversation with him about what was going on in his mind. Following is the heart-wrenching account of that conversation:
Oh my heart, I do not think I have felt this much emotional pain ever. There are no words as so many of you know. Tears are flowing uncontrollably. Shaking my head and holding breath, is hard to breathe.
In a moment of clarity, Daddy spoke from his heart tonight. The first time ever to express what is happening to him. He is such a warrior, always has been. It went something like this.
“I have done something I have never done before, and I don’t know how it happened. I am not sure how to change it, but somehow I have to. Baby, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I am not the man I use to be. I am not me anymore. I have never known anyone who has ever done this before. I am Dan Willaford.”
“I know who you are, you are my daddy, and Larry and Lora Ann’s daddy, and we love you just the way you are.”
“But I am not me anymore. I am Dan Willaford, but that’s not who I am. I changed and I got to figure out how to get back. I don’t
like it. I need to go to sleep, and when I wake up tomorrow maybe everything will be alright. I have to figure out how to get back. How can I tell people I am Dan Willaford if I am not the man I use to be? I don’t know how I did it. I don’t like it.”
“Daddy, you will always be Dan Willaford. We all change, we are never the same person each day, but the man within the spirit is still you.”
“I need to go to bed. I have never known this to happen to anyone before. How did this happen? When I wake up tomorrow maybe I will be Dan Willaford again.”
“Okay, Daddy. Let’s get you to bed.”
The words dementia would not come out of my mouth. It was like burning coals on my lips. I was thinking if I say that word maybe it would help him understand what was happening to him. The word would not escape my lips.
Mr. Dan loved to play poker, now he will not look at a deck of cards; loved music, now he cannot pick up his guitar and amuse himself or his family; loved writing songs, a pen he can no longer master; loved playing the keyboard, now no longer remembers how to turn it on.
My heart is so broken because I know deep within so is his. But he is still Dan Willaford, a warrior, my hero, and the tallest man I
know. I am his biggest fan. He still sings, still loves music, hums all day. Sometimes when he thinks he is talking to me he is humming. Sometimes when he talks to me he breaks out in a melody of what he is saying. My dad’s world is not comfortable for him He let me know this tonight. If you wish to share this with anyone, please do. It is another window to the world of dementia.
God bless you, Linda Wilkins, as you walk this road with your daddy, Dan Willaford.
For more information about Alzheimer’s and related dementias, call 1-800-272-3900 or go to www.alz.org.