What It Is Like For Dad To Be Gone

Dad went into the rest home yesterday. He has dementia (apparently of the lewy body variety) and has been deteriorating for years. For the last two years, he could not be left alone and needed assistance with much of daily life–things like bathing, dressing, and toileting. My mom has been his primary caregiver during that time. I’ve helped quite a bit, and, for the last 9 months, we’ve also had caregivers come in three mornings a week. As dad slowly deteriorated, he needed more and more assistance. Finally, a little over a week ago, my mom, who has sacrificed herself heroically over the course of dad’s illness, said, “I can’t do this anymore.” She was tearful, wishing she still had the strength to continue on, but admitting she had reached her limit. We discussed options, and finally decided that the rest home was the best choice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI want to write a few posts about what we’ve gone through during this week. Today I just want to comment on what it is like to spend our first day at home without dad. When we woke this morning, his bed was still unmade from the last night he slept in it. The balloons from his 90th birthday party three weeks ago were still floating in the living room, and the cards we had him sort and weights we had him lift were nearby. His clothes were still in the closet, and his toothbrush, toothpaste, and foot cream were still in the bathroom. The only one of these things that changed during the course of the day is that my sister made his bed. The tangible signs of his presence will remain here for some time.

Dad is also still with us in the activities of the day. I thought often about what I wasn’t doing today that I have been doing so regularly—doing arm exercises with dad, encouraging him to drink water, getting him to stand up and push his walker to the bathroom or the dining room. As my mom and I ate dinner together, she commented, “It seems so strange that we’re talking without dad here to listen to us.” For at least the last year, dad spoke only a handful of words a day and sat in his chair until someone asked him to do otherwise. He didn’t seem to take up much psychic space, so  it is unexpected that his absence would rest so heavily on the house. It does, though.

Blessings in this new phase of life, dad. We miss you.


About Bob Ritzema

I am a fourth-generation American of Dutch ancestry and am trained as a clinical psychologist. In 2012, I retired from Methodist University in North Carolina to return to . Michigan to help family, and, in 2023, I started again with a move to Milwaukee to be near my children. I maintain a part-time therapy practice. I can be reached at bobritzema@hotmail.com.
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3 Responses to What It Is Like For Dad To Be Gone

  1. Janet Yano says:

    This post beautifully captures the absence of your dad’s presence at home. I hope the transition is going well.

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