The church was filled with the smell of incense and pine needles. An occasional smell of cough drops and “old lady perfume” would waft by as people stood up and kneeled down during the Catholic mass calisthenics.
The Christmas mass was ending and the priest led us in an accapella version of “Silent Night.” My hand was wrapped up tight in my Dad’s hand as he proudly crooned the lyrics…”Silent Night…Holy Night…All is calm…All is bright.”
I was proud to be anywhere with my Dad. He was a strong personality and a friend to anyone he came in contact with. If you met John Eastwood once, you knew him forever. I am in awe of his gift of gab and spitballs of knowledge in a gazillion topics.
The years rolled on. There were decades full of Christmas masses and us singing our favorite Christmas tunes. As it happens in all families, we grew up. Kathy and I started our own lives and Mom and Dad settled into their retired routines. The saying time flies is really one of the truest statements ever. Fight me on that one.
Time took flight and started to pick up speed and a passenger. Last year my Dad was diagnosed with Dementia. Shortly afterwards he suffered not one but five strokes. This led to we were told Vascular Dementia and now late staged Alzheimer’s. It’s called “The Slow Goodbye”.
We are watching Dad lose his words. His memory is completely gone. His zest for life still glimmers but he is really fading fast and we are here trying to keep him happy while he falls silent.
Alzheimer’s is so mysterious. Despite my Googling each day, I cannot figure out how this force of nature swoops in and just takes over a once vibrant and brilliant life. It silences the brain and the person. Dad is here with us but not as he once was. Our family has become a team of nightingales. As I write this, it’s 11:55 p.m. on a Friday night as I take the overnight shift at my parents’ house.
Dad just woke up and I put him back to bed and gave him a kiss. I whispered “I love you Daddy” and held his hand tight. I then told Alexa to play Silent Night 2x. Bing Crosby started to croon and as I turned out the light I heard Dad singing “Silent Night…Holy Night…All is calm…All is bright.”
May the world’s brainpower find a way to silence this horrible disease and help save the strong and brilliant souls for many years to come. If you are suffering through this journey as well, I am wishing you peace and strength as you go. May our voices and wishes be heard yet never silenced so that all will be calm and all will be bright.