Forgotten Identity-Or the day my dad forgot who I was.
A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with my dad laughing it up, having a good time, when he leaned in and said in a very formal voice, “Ma’am?” I knew in that moment my dad forgot who I was. My father has Alzheimer’s disease and each time I am with him, I notice how a bit more of him slipped away. I relocated him to Tennessee a little over a year ago so he would be closer to me since I am responsible for his care. Consequently, I have been able to spend more time with him before the disease takes him away completely.
I have to say that there is something unnerving about your parent not recognizing you. It is not a consistent thing right now, yet I know that event was a foreshadowing of what’s coming. I find myself looking at how I define myself and what life will be like without his presence. Who will I be the day when he looks at me and asks me my name?
There is a verse in Jeremiah 1:5 that goes, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” That line brings me such comfort as I reversed roles with my dad. Now, don’t get me wrong, our relationship has not been one of the rosy, picture perfect relationships. But as I face the tasks that many people my age find themselves doing, I notice how the old hurts, betrayals and resentments just don’t matter anymore. As I hear the words of God whisper in my heart reminding me of my true lineage and place, I can see my dad for who he is and deeply appreciate what he gave me over my lifetime.
Being here for him in this way has stretched and expanded me in ways that I could never have imagined nor did I know I wanted to be stretched and expanded this way. I have discovered a new found strength and capacity for compassion that was dormant within me waiting to be activated. And as I move through our routine together, I see elements of both my parents come alive in me. I see family influence in me from even further back as I hear my deceased grandmother’s voice speak through my voice and minister to my dad through my hands.
I not grateful for Alzheimer’s. I miss the intense conversations and disagreements and the equally passionate expressions of love that my dad and I often had. But, I am grateful for the gifts that come in all situations, this one included. I am grateful for remembering who I am as his daughter and ultimately God’s daughter. I am grateful for increased strength and compassion. And most of all, I am grateful for this time together while he still knows my name and the way we can joke about it those times he forgets.