Dad in Wonderland

My father thinks he’s married to a woman at the memory unit, although she doesn’t think she is married to him. Her name is Juanita and she was kind to him. She said hello and spoke a few words to him. That was enough to convince him they are in love and married, despite her “evil family” that wants to keep them apart.

As I sat there and listened to my dad, it felt like I was struggling to climb a huge wall in my brain. I wanted to see the nugget of truth in what he said, the kernel of reality that launched him into this stratosphere of confusion. If I could just understand it, then maybe I could stop him before he dropped into the rabbit hole. 

But there was nothing. There was no piece of reality that blossomed into a story. My husband and I spoke with a staff member and she said my father made it all up. She said he is currently “fixated” on Miss Juanita, but it will pass. We just need to distract, redirect and affirm him when necessary.

My husband did so well with all of this. Even before we talked to the staff member, he engaged my father. He asked him if he was happy and if he liked being married to Juanita. He listened to my father describe the wedding and the 200 guests. He told my dad that the important thing is he is married to Juanita and they are happy. My father beamed.

As we were driving home, my husband said, “Well, that went ok. Your dad seemed happy.” And something inside me broke open and shattered, and I heard myself YELLING at my sweet, loving husband. I heard this monster in myself scream, “How can you say that? Do you have any idea what you’re talking about? He is out of his mind! How can you say it went well?”

I started sobbing and my husband sat there, stoic and cautious, not knowing what to say or do. Seconds of silence turned to minutes while he drove and I cried, realizing I had botched it. I had alienated the person who is on my side, the man who loves and supports me. He had simply been trying to comfort me, to parse something good from all the bad.

Yet all I could see is what was lost. All I could remember is the father I had, now replaced by a stranger.

My beautiful husband is doing his best to manage an untenable situation, to support a wife who is prickly and fragile. He is a godly man walking in the Spirit, giving and loving and kind. I am my father’s daughter, trapped in the prison of his disease, desperately, blindly trying to feel my way back to my husband. Taking so much more than my allotment. Taking so much more than I can give.

Please Lord, let him wait for me.


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