I was home alone. I knew better, but I did it anyway, knowing full well it would make me cry.
The cliché of “they just don’t make movies like they used to,” is for real. Any chance I get I’ll troll through the hundreds of channels (we never watch) to find a good movie. This time it was “The Notebook.” I’d seen it before and knew this love story revolves around a woman who loses her memory from Alzheimer’s and have cried through it more times than I like to admit. Watching Dads’ decline from this horrible disease was heart wrenching and it took a long time to get past the guilt of having to make the decision to move him to a nursing home.
My nerves were already getting the best of me, wondering what this first visit with Dad, in his new “home,” was going to bring. He was sitting on the back porch with a group of men, and watching him through the window for a few minutes, brought a smile to my tear-streaked face. Dad was in his element. Drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and shootin' the bull. Without being able to hear their conversation, he seemed to be the person I'd been grieving over since dementia stole him away.
He was excited to see me, and then, just as quickly, returned to the group's discussion, which was anything but normal. From reminiscing about events which never happened to making plans for trips he would never take, he was enjoying making small talk and I had to fight back tears of relief.
Feeling confident, since the initial visit went so well, I decided to go by again the next evening after work. The nice lady at Dad's new home suggested I wait awhile before stopping by in the evenings, as it can be a rough time of the day. Of course, I thought I knew best, and stopped by anyway.
At first he was excited I was there and even though most the time he introduced me as his wife, instead of daughter, it seemed to be going OK until everything was quiet and it was just the two of us sitting on the couch. Dad started talking about how much he missed me and was tearing up, squeezing my hand as though it would be our last visit.
I reassured him I would be coming as often as I could but soon realized his mind was bouncing between the past and the present. At times I was his mother or his wife and less often, his daughter.
I cried all the way home, convinced he wasn't happy in his new home, even though I had just witnessed him having a great time the day before. The next morning I couldn’t help myself and showed up to see him again. He was folding laundry and was happy as could be, talking about the heat of the day, how lucky he was to have an air-conditioned home and friends to talk to.
I hadn’t thought about Sundowners Syndrome for some time until I watched that darn movie again. This mysterious ailment, for dementia and Alzheimer's patients, escalates their confusion when the sun sets.
I promised myself not to watch that movie again, although I know I will, as painful as it is, it reminds me of Dad.