I tried to kill my father for years. To be fair, I was following his wishes. He’d made it clear that when he no longer recognized me, when he could no longer talk, when the nurses started treating him like a toddler, he didn’t want to live any longer.
My father was 58 years old when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He took the diagnosis with the self-deprecating humor he’d spent a lifetime cultivating, constantly cracking jokes about how he would one day turn into a zombie, a walking corpse. We had a good 10 years with him after the diagnosis. Eventually, his jokes came true.
Seven years before he died, he forgot my name. Three years before his death, he forgot my mother’s existence. His speech devolved into word salad. “Honey, garbage bag synopsis toothbrush Bella potato beetle?” he asked. I replied as though I had understood: “Yes, Gray.” I had taken to calling him by his childhood nickname. He didn’t respond to “Dad”; he no longer realized he was a father.