It will soon be six months since my Dad passed and I haven’t yet sorted through all his ‘stuff’. It had taken me over two months after his passing to move his toiletries out of the bathroom. It just did not occur to me earlier that we would not need them anymore.
Going over some of his other things last week, I came across carbon copies of letters neatly preserved in a box. Most were of the mundane sort addressed to banks, utility companies or local authorities. My Dad had kept a copy of his correspondence using a carbon paper and had preserved the copies in this box and I felt compelled to read them all. These were hand written in the seventies and early eighties and I marvelled at his neat script, at how well he had written without an erasure or over writing and at his command over English though it had not been his medium of instruction at school. The way the copies were arranged in the box reminded me what a tidy hoarder he had been. Everything neatly folded, labeled, packed and kept. Nothing discarded.
I am afraid that my real memories of my Dad before he had dementia are getting dim. Most of my memories are only of the last few years, the times when he spoke less and needed complete care. Perhaps the regular regimen of caring for him has actually replaced the memory of him from the earlier times.
We realized that we had very few photographs of our mother only after she died suddenly. Therefore, we consciously took more photos of Dad. This was easier with the advent of cameras on mobile phones in the last few years. However, even these are only from his dementia period. Has his dementia robbed us of our own memories of the time before he lost his?
If I could put the clock back, I would make many more photos and videos of my parents in the days before Dad had dementia. Technology allows it now. Dementia as they say is a long goodbye and in the daily routine of care giving, we forget to put aside memories of the good times and even the good days for us to look at and remember after they are gone. Without these, the only picture that remains in our mind’s eye is the way we saw them in their last days.
I put back the carbon copies of his letters back in the box and in the “to keep pile” because I have not the heart to get rid of them. Did I keep these to remind me there was a time when he did not have dementia, or perhaps I am turning into a little hoarder myself? Sorting through memories is such hard time consuming business.