But when I grew up, I put away childish things.

So there’s probably something wrong with my dad’s brain.  He’s got word loss and short term memory loss. The last six months, it’s become markedly pronounced.

He has appointments to see some specialists at the end of the month, and from there I guess they’ll start whittling down the list of possible diagnoses.


I sat with him yesterday and listened to him go over the possibilities.  He’s a retired doctor, so all those possibilities were in Technicolor detail.  None of them sounded any good.

He ticked them off on his fingers: Brain tumor somewhere over in Broca’s – possibly recurrence of the melanoma he beat as a young man.  Stroke.  Drug interaction…

“What were we talking about?  I forgot,” he said, three of his five fingers out.

I smiled out of reflex, and he smiled back, and you know what?  I about lost it right there -I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not. Because that is exactly the kind of sick humor he’s known for.

And the not knowing, the having to look at my dad from an arm’s length distance of whether it was him talking right then or the problem?  That moment was bad.

The thing is, I’ve been sitting here, trying to make a good argument as to why my dad losing his mental skills is so particularly heartbreaking for a guy like him, with what he’s done with his life, and where he came from, and where he’s been since.

I was pretty much stumped, mostly because:  How do you filter down 70 years of life into a couple of distinctive phrases to convey who that person really is?  You can’t, that’s how.

But eventually, it hit me. I don’t have to tell you what kind of person he is, because if you’ve ever had a complicated relationship with a parent you love, you probably already know exactly what it feels like, even if you don’t know what mine looks like.

That made me sit-back-and-take-a-deep-breath feel better, because if you know what I’m talking about, you’d de facto kinda know my dad. And if you even kinda knew him, you’d have to love him a little, and that would have to make it better somehow.

But then I realized bad stuff happens to people who are loved all the time.  Love doesn’t protect us from dying, or suffering, or spending the end of our lives in adult diapers, trying to escape the Alzheimer’s Special Care unit while we fail to recognize anyone who ever loved us.  Love’s not gonna fix that.

And so here I am again, with words failing to convey how bad I feel.