On Death Of A ParentWith Dementia

Outside my window the rain is falling.

Slippery sheets plunging to embrace the earth on and on,

And everything is sopping and cemented with thick, torpid water that has no place to go inside my walled garden.

I am struck by the similarities going on inside and out,

For my heart is congealed in a bog of grief that also has no place to go.

An embankment circumscribes my heart,

And I have no way to drain this deluge of tears bound to the child that still exists inside of me.

I know sharp sunlight will return outside to burn off the dead water in puffs of steam,

It always does.

But what can reach in and incinerate this quagmire squeezing my heart shut?

For you see my heart is jammed with a mixture of grief and deceit for you Dad.

I am drenched and submerged in a river of yearning and nostalgia I do not understand,

And cannot seem to pull myself out of.

For you were, and now cease to be for me for a second time Dad.

And I am stuck in the confusion of a strange, ugly grief.

For I have now lost you twice.

But there is no kind of decent, honest grief for me to be had at this, your second demise.

Nor even at your first, because there was no real starting point when you left us all those years ago,

No truthful mourning period where tears swept open that sweet side of grief where gratitude lives for who you were and what we had together.

No, instead I am ridden with a concealed, covert, unseemly joy that you are gone.

Even though I know they are expecting tears from me,

I am impregnated by a blackened bliss that the father I knew has ceased to reside in the old, open mouthed, vacant body that was left behind.

They await heartbreak.

Instead, I want to celebrate and fall on my knees in gratitude to God that you have gone and are now cremated,

Burnt up and scattered into weightless, grey dust that I threw out in handfuls atop a hill in Africa.

So now I must disguise my exhilaration into a bland inconspicuous word like relieved you are gone because of your Alzheimer’s disease.

Relieved you are gone?

I am not relieved!

I am bursting with elation, intoxicated with a bone deep gratitude that you no longer take breath.

How is that possible?

Because I know I love you Dad,

And now, twisted into that joy that you are gone is this sharp, fractured grief that cuts those feelings of bliss with a chainsaw and leaves them hemorrhaging pain into my heart.

For in truth, it is not only the aged, uninhabited stranger I have just lost Dad, but you.

My Father who existed, whole and well 12 years ago.

In those days you were my teacher of the stars and beetles and Socrates.

You were the lover of Beethoven and Rudyard Kipling.

Chef extraordinaire who never used a recipe because you knew better, and you were right.

Creator of kaleidoscopic spices and fragrances that engulfed the kitchen where you reigned,

Bigger than life,

And that moment in your African kitchen watching you was better than anywhere else in the world somehow.

With your classical music blaring and a quick wipe of a tear when the music broke open your soul.

Your candescent glass of brandy never far away as you sweated over your stove with the cicada beetles grinding away and the scorching air outside the window puffing on the lace curtain above your chopping board,

And your conversation.

Oh, your conversation Dad!

How the room quieted to listen to you speaking.

Talk full of wit, interest, stories, facts, oddities,

History, science, biology, music, poetry, and space.

All shared in your eloquent voice permeated with feeling.

How you loved the world Dad, and how the world loved you!

When you were Dad proper,

When you were number one Dad.

Before you left us with this empty shell that was Dad two,

Who we have now just lost.

But you have never been lost, not then and not now.

You just cease to be because we cremated the ancient man with the dead eyes that was so obviously not you.

And I must make peace with this most hideous of places I find myself in now,

Drowning in grief and joy at your parting.

Navigating unrivalled pain that makes me want to sob and wail because you are gone and my world has lost its richness,

Sown into a deep contentment that I will never need to see your ravaged face ever again.

Gratitude and longing for who you were Dad,

Even though you ceased to be for over a decade,

And I now exist in this most equivocal of places.

This ambivalent, uncomfortable berth where I can never wholly embrace our memories in peace.

Because I love you Dad,

And yet I am so happy you are gone.

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Jennifer Thietz
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