My dad has Alzheimer's and it is an emotional struggle for me. I wrote this for my kids just in case it hits me me one day.
Hey you two. As I write this, it's 2014 and you are only 7 and 5 (though you like to remind me that you're 7 1/2, which technically isn't true). K, you are about to start second grade, you had an excellent report card at the end of last year and finished a play where you were hands down, the best "Glitter Bug" out there. J, you're getting ready to start Kindergarten, have recently learned to draw robots and can almost ride a two wheeler without crashing. These are small details of your life that make me smile. If I ever need to be cheered, I just think of you two and my day is instantly brighter. You guys make me laugh all the time and I know you look at me as your infallible leader in goofiness, make-believe and storytelling. But right now I have to admit, I'm scared. There's a chance I might forget you one day.
When we visit Grandpa I have to remind you to be patient with him because he might not remember you. He might get mad for no reason and I know that this is something you can't understand. We tell you his brain is sick and that deep down, he loves you. What you don't know is that it's hereditary. One day it could happen to me, and that terrifies me more than anything else in the world. I don't want to forget singing to you every night. I don't want to lose the images of playing the games we've made up like "Robot-Dad" and "That's My Shadow". I want to remember wiping your tears away when you fall. I want to remember tricking you into thinking walking on my back is a game, and not an easy way for me to score a back-rub. I want to remember being interrupted in the shower for the "emergency" of finding your mermaid picture. I just want to remember you both and how perfect you are.
If a day comes where my memory slips and I'm not the person you knew, please don't let the frustration become your lasting memory of me. If I'm like grandpa, you'll be mad that I remember quotes from movies I saw in the '80s but can't remember your children. You won't understand why I decide to do things that make no sense to you, but seem obvious to me. Grandpa dismantles appliances to the immense consternation of grandma. I might begin doing something similar. You'll be hurt by me and my changes in moods. You'll wonder how Mommy deals with me every day. I watch my own daddy now and wonder how it's possible to miss someone you've lost, who is standing in the same room or is a phone call away. Please don't let that be what you recall when you think of me.
Remember playing pirates and chasing through the woods.
Remember me as your hiking partner, giving names to plants and animals like the "butt beetle."
Remember karate chopping the waves on the beach and making dribble castles in the sunshine together.
Remember the dance parties and puppet shows acted out on our living room stage.
Remember making cooking videos together and thinking you are "famous" because of them.
Remember the bedtime stories I'd make up starring Princess K and her brother Prince J and the many adventures they had together.
Remember the things that haven't happened yet. Driving lessons. Surfing together. Dancing at your weddings. Teaching you to shave. Christmases, birthdays, summers, vacations.
Please remember me as I am now, and as the dad I always strived to be for you. When you're mad at me and sad for me, try to picture a younger dad. The one who would play, run, tumble and fall with you. The one who loves you and would do anything for you. Remember all of the good times we have spent together, because even though it might seem like those moments are gone for me, they are there deep down in my heart. Behind the fog of uncertainty and the curtain of confusion, I'll be remembering and loving you forever.