My father had Alzheimer’s Disease for many years. I watched him slowly losing speech, forgetting everyday things, and finally not knowing who I was.
It has taken me a few years to concentrate on my father and his life before the disease changed him and his outward personality.
Now I am able to remember him as the fun-loving, creative, artistic, loving father he is – the man he really is.
But what happens to a person who has his life altered by such a disease?
We would stand together in the elevator at the nursing home. He would praise me because I knew which button to push to get to his floor. I remember thinking, Oh, pappa, you have so much more knowledge than I have. You can do so much. Why is that knowledge locked away, hindered by a horrible disease?
And had we walked out the door, he would not have known his way around the building without getting lost.
He had a paper in his breast pocket. He told me it was the contract for him and mamma to cut down the timber in the woods behind the nursing home. My mother had passed away several years earlier, and there was no wooded area behind the nursing home, just more buildings. But this he believed.
He loved music. Some of my last memories of him is sitting on his bed in the nursing home, singing to him. He looked like he was asleep, but his foot kept tapping to the rhythm of the music. He heard me and enjoyed the song.
We have learned that the glory of God is intelligence. We are encouraged to learn all that we can and that the knowledge we obtain in this life, will be a part of us in the eternities.
So, I have wondered lately, when I read, watch, experience – and feel like I can’t remember from one day to the next what I learned – will that knowledge still be with me and be a part of me?
I believe the knowledge we obtain will be stored. It is part of our mental harddisk, even if we don’t remember things like what we had for dinner last Tuesday.
It’s actually wrong to call it a harddisk. Our brain is not a computer. We cannot open it to read a book or listen to a symphony there. It’s so much more complex than that.
I also believe that all the wonderful things my dad learned, all the talents he improved, all the people relationships he mastered – these things are stored and are still a part of him.
So, I am picky. What do I want to learn? What knowledge will be important in days to come? Which stories in the chapters of the book of Heidi will I bring with me?
My father had many talents and skills. One was building homes. He did the whole process; made the architectural designs, contractor, carpenter, builder, kitchen cabinet maker, furniture maker, interior design. He even won a price for best garden design.
My father did not know me during his last period on earth, but I could tell he enjoyed the visits.