We’ve always been close, Dad and I. But not any more. Looking at him sat in an armchair in the corner of the nursing home, it’s hard to believe that this was once a lucid and intelligent young man. He’ll always be my dad, but it’ll never be the same. It’s like that young man left, and in his place, a shadow. The fog of memories sifting around constantly, flickering. Some brighter than others. It’s up to me to remember for us both now.
It wasn’t like this at first. He remembered most things, but now he barely even
remembers his own name. I miss him so much.He was successful too. An artist — he used to paint the most beautiful pictures. Now he doesn’t even remember how to hold the brush right. He taught me to paint. I’m not bad at it, but I’ll never be as good as he was. He used to travel the world, teaching poor people how to paint for free. He always believed that it was important that everyone learned to be cultured. He didn’t just see it as painting. He saw it as a whole process, from tiny pieces of the picture in someone’s head, to putting it down on paper, the whole image as a painting.
He used to be so wise. Not any more though. They even have to feed him, it’s gotten that far. This stupid, horrible disease. I don’t understand why it had to happen to him. You hear stories, and feel sorry for the people, but you never think that it’s going to happen to anyone in your family. I suppose that’s why it shocks people so, when someone in their family develops illnesses like this.
He’s asleep right now. He doesn’t know I’m here. Sometimes, when he sees me, I’ll see a flicker of recognition in his eyes — a small spark of love, but that’s all it is. He doesn’t really talk to me, just sort of sits there while I talk at him in this falsely cheery voice. Sometimes I just get so cross with him — like he isn’t even trying, but deep down, I know that’s not true. I know he can’t remember me; that sometimes he loses the words.
I used to find it funny when he lost the words, or mixed them up. We all did, and used to laugh about it, but that laughter stopped. It was like the illness slowly tore him up bit by bit. Slowly took away fragment after fragment of his make up until all we had left was a shell. I often nickname him ‘Shadow’. It’s become like a term of endearment.
Visiting him gets so hard. Sometimes he won’t even let me cuddle him. He pushes me away. Sometimes, when that happens, it makes me feel like the illness is tearing me apart too, but I still come back. I can’t leave him alone in here. No-one else visits him. Most of his friends are no longer with us, and the others can’t bear to see what he’s become — my ‘Shadow’.