I have been out of town for a little over two weeks. It has been a wonderful time of relaxing, entertaining family members, and enjoying the beautiful Michigan summer days near both an inland lake and Lake Michigan, The Big Lake as we on the west side of the Mitten state call it.
As I have been working my way back into the reality of responsibilities here at home, I realized I have not seen my Dad since I left. Of course I have not seen my Mom either but I have spoken to her several times just to find out how she is doing. I realized this afternoon as I plan to head to my office tomorrow and also visit with my Mom and my Dad that I have not really missed my Dad the past two weeks. For most of my adult life I have looked forward to visits with him and with my Mom so this lack of missing him seems strange. In fact, I feel a bit guilty.
The theologian in me says I have no need to feel guilty. I have not dishonored him in any way. I have not shirked my responsibility as a daughter. I have not, in fact, done anything morally impermissible with respect to my Dad.
So why have I not missed him?
I’m not sure but it seems to me that this is yet one more consequence of dementia. The Dad I go visit and interact with is not the Dad I have always enjoyed seeing, talking to, and interacting with. Oh, there are still vestiges of him there. But the full orbed person that he is has been diminished by this horrible disease.
In fact, I do miss my Dad. I miss him terribly and regularly. But the Dad I visit now is very different than the Dad I spent most of my life with. This fact not only means I don’t miss him, the physical him, in the same way. It also means that visiting him always comes with grief.
This morning as I was spending time with God I reflected and prayed for a person in our church who lost her husband suddenly in a bicycle accident this weekend. I also prayed for a young man, my son-in-law’s cousin, whose wife died suddenly this past week. She was the mother of several young children. As I prayed I couldn’t help but wonder about the ways of God. Why, I wondered, should God take someone who was still vibrant and active? Why take a young woman whose children surely need her? Why, while I and my family must watch my Dad slowly die inch by agonizing inch?
I surely do not know. In fact, where all of this is concerned that is the only thing I do know – that I do not know.