My Da turned 86 last week. His younger self would not appreciate his image being posted here. His younger self was a force to be reckoned with. Fiercely independent, intelligent, sometimes belligerent. We didn’t always get along. We didn’t always see eye to eye. That was his other self. The product of his own pain. That was my other self. The product of my own pain.
This is now. His basic needs are taken care of. He is safe. He is minded. But it’s not him. It’s difficult to visit. It’s difficult to see. But ‘seeing’ him is something I think about a lot these days.
Alzheimer’s has taken his essence, his opinions. His fiercely coveted freewill. His dignity. His independence. His arguments. His past. His now. His future. A fragile man, moving in the shadow of his former life. Shuffling in slippers, wearing clothes he can no longer choose for himself. Eating food he can no longer choose for himself. Taking medication doled out from prescriptions that he never sees. Pacing slower each time. Holding up the walls. Staring out from a life made small by a barbaric disease.
Memories, mind and spirit, locked behind an expression that does not recognise. That cannot read. That cannot concentrate. No reminiscence, no sharing, no conversation. All the things he cannot say. Just the fading slowly – a life in twilight, every sunset erasing another facet of who he once was. The tenement child. The Liberties boy. The eldest. The christian brothers student. The reader. The self-educator. The son. The husband. The father. The brother. The boxer. The drinker. The quick-tempered. The friend. The Grandfather. The Great-grandfather. The golfer. The printer. The father of the chapel. The man who worked for the newspaper. The Frank Sinatra fan. The man who worked part-time until he was in his 70’s. The daily suit and tie. The all his life clean-shaven and shoes polished. All of it, lost. No longer ‘known’. No longer ‘seen’.
But you’re still here, Da. And I see you.
Caroline is a writer and filmmaker from Dublin, Ireland, and author of the novel LADY BETH (Eric Hoffer Award Winner 2019 and Winner of the Carousel Aware Prize BEST NOVEL 2017). Writer and Director of the short film FRAMED (2018), she has also written and co-produced ADAM (2013) and the auto-biographical IN RIBBONS (2015) which has screened at festivals worldwide. Watch IN RIBBONS HERE