Anger and Angst
It was an early fall afternoon four years ago and I was alone in my car parked in a deserted parking lot after I had just gotten indicted with a speeding ticket that would cost me a lot of money to get rid of, several court visits, and exposure to being alone in court with a lawyer pleading my case. I had just gotten off the phone with my best friend who lived hundreds of miles away at that time and nothing she said could comfort me. I felt as deserted, lost, and alone as the parking lot I was parked in. I had taken an early leave that day to drive three hours away to see my fiance/now husband only to find out we wouldn’t be able to meet that day because he was too busy. I had not realized how disturbed my then mental state was until the cop had pulled me over and asked me how fast I was going and I just went blank. Words jammed in my mouth and then I burst crying in front of this stranger in the middle of the highway with a blank mind. He too got alarmed looking at me and asked me to calm down.
And yet all I could tell him was I don’t know how fast I was going because I was thinking about my dad who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, how he had just been let go of his job of 15 years because he could no longer remember tasks he had been doing mechanically for the past 15 years, because being the eldest and only other earning person in my household at that time I was now the sole bread earner, and my fiance of three years lived so far away for work that I had to take off early from work once every month to see him otherwise I’d go insane, and in the middle of all these thoughts I had no idea when my foot pressed the accelerator so hard that I was now subjected to what could be a possible felony if I was charged with this speeding.
I did not get that ticket on my record, fyi. But the thoughts that bothered me that afternoon traveled with me steadily for the next four years. I cannot even begin to fathom what my dad has gone through since this disease got the best of him. All I know is that it got the best of all of us. My family has and will never be the same like it was before we had him all normal. As if we needed another reason to be “not normal” since we already had my brother with Down’s Syndrome. The way we lost family and friends when this happened. When “friends” of my dad who he had helped in dire, dire situations turned their backs on him so much so that they even refused to recognize me in public places. When “family” who only called or visited to check in if he was still alive or dead so they could start planning on how to go about receiving anything he left behind in his name, or just to simply give pity talks to us, especially my already distraught mother. When the grand wedding my father had envisioned for me, his eldest and only daughter, could now never materialize only because he himself was unable to even remember he had a daughter he had to get married. When everything in the future crumbled before my eyes because a father is the first and strongest pillar of the family, and what does one do when the strongest pillar just gets demolished in a matter of blinks?
I was angry. Very, very angry. How could this happen? To my family, my mother, me? Just…….how?! For years, even after I became a parent I could not bring myself at peace with the fact that he was gone yet he was still here. Like a ghost. A living ghost? I would cry like a little girl on the smallest of things that would remind me of him…sometimes the long coat of a guy similar to the one he wore in winters…sometimes looking at someone who resembled him…sometimes looking at other fathers and daughters…and then there was the time when I was getting married, saying I do in front of him, bidding him farewell as I left his home forever and started a new life, without him realizing that I was gone..without him making a memory of his little girl as a bride, without him giving me any prayers he’d remember afterwards, without him being there to advise me anymore or even give me a shoulder to cry on if in the future I felt scared or bewildered or just plain lonely in my new home.
If you ever hate someone, wish they have a loving family and then they get struck by Alzheimer’s You could not wish worse for someone. Trust me. What sucked the most about this whole ordeal was that he wasn’t even that old. Guys his age in the west marry 16 year old models or take their spouses on cruises. Guys his age just begin to live. It was so unfair. To him. To us.
Its not easy. It was just not easy. None of it made sense to me and I had nightmares for a very long time. I had lost him as a ten year old kid when he moved away to fend for us and did not see for eight years straight, and I had lost him again after just a reunion of five short years. In the five years we lived together he was busy working two jobs so that we could enjoy the life of luxury in America. And luxurious our life was indeed. Because once he was not there, and I had to take care of the bills I realized how ungrateful and spoilt I was. He would not let me do any chores in the house. He would not bother me if my cell phone bill went higher one month. He would not complain about giving me pocket money even though I was working and an adult. He would fight with my mom if she ever scolded me. He would always have the air conditioner on so his children would not catch a heat stroke. He would clean our cars before we had to. He would just be jolly and humorous about the gravest of situations and if I ever cried he would cry with me because he could just not see tears in my eyes.
So when I lost the biggest luxury of having a caring father I was shattered like never before. I thought I had my heart broken several times before but I was so wrong. This time it broke so that I could not even find the pieces to mend it. I lost the only guy who was my everything. I used to slip in so easily into his arms given that he is a good 6 feet and 4 inches tall. He taught me everything. From driving, to studying, to work ethics, to being honest, to choosing the right path no matter what, and most of all he taught me acceptance. He himself was not a strong person emotionally and it bothered me a lot but time has taught me that this trait of his and him being struck by this disease was nothing but a blessing in disguise. He taught me the biggest lesson of life after forgetting how to teach altogether and without making any conscious effort.
It was necessary I got that ticket that afternoon because it was my first step towards accepting my life would never be the same and I had to be okay with this fact.
It was necessary I become responsible for all financial responsibilities in the household so I could grow up, mature, and realize the toil my father had gone through for 15 years without us just so we could live peacefully.
It was necessary for me to drive alone to get my henna done for my wedding two hours away, and drive alone decked up as a bride to the wedding venue so I could take pride in being the daughter of a man who had immense self respect.
It was necessary for me to spend every penny on my wedding so I knew the value of money and the fact that extravagance does not guarantee a good marriage.
It was necessary for me to look at him in my last days at home and say prayers from the deepest of my heart for him because the prayers from a daughter’s heart come next to nothing in the world.
It was necessary for me to take my time to come to terms with the fact that I am the daughter of an Alzheimer’s patient and I am no less proud of him than I was when he was okay.
Because if he was okay, he would not be able to see me cry whenever I cried as a wife or a mother.
Because if he was okay, he would not let me take on responsibilities. and protect me from the viciousness of the world thus inhibiting my personal growth.
Because if he was okay, I would not have been hurt or exposed to situations like facing a judge alone and gain confidence.
Because if he was okay, I would not have cried nights out and be grateful for him as one of the first and biggest blessings in my life.
Because if was okay, I would not have the ardor, the passion, the drive, to get up each morning and live for my baby.
Thank you, Alzheimer’s. You gave me my dad back in a way I never suspected, with an admiration I would otherwise never have. You gave me him in the most Amazing way possible.