Today is the 2nd anniversary of my dad’s death. I still think about him every day. I still go through bouts of serious grief. I still picture those final, horrible, painful days with him as we sat by his bedside and watched him die. I still have nightmares. But, very slowly, I’m also starting to remember some small things from before his dementia, or at least in the very early phases of it. They’re not huge things, and there aren’t as many of those memories as I’d like compared to memories post-diagnosis. But they’re there.
I’m not going to lie and say that time has made this all easier to bear. It hasn’t. Life without my dad in it is lonelier. It’s a little less colorful. I feel less confident without him there to cheer me on. And I go through periods where the world seems bound and determined to remind me of him and make me cry. I want him back. Now. I want him to stop by and check on me, though I don’t even know if that’s possible. It’s hard not being a person of faith. Sometimes I think that his soul might be floating around out there, still tethered to mine somehow, like some big, transparent, elephant-shaped balloon. Other times that seems ridiculous. It feels like I’m looking for signs that aren’t really there. Or maybe they are.
In this time of transition in my life, I need him more desperately than ever to help confirm that I’m on the right path. Closing the paint and sip studio was hard, because it was a huge chapter of my life that he never got to see. And closing it reminds me of how many more chapters I’ll begin and end that he won’t be here to witness. But even if those chapters can’t be ours, they’ll still happen.
As we gear up to open the tattoo studio, I’m so sad that he’s not here to hug me and tell me how proud he is of me. I still need that paternal affirmation. So, I find myself doing little things to make him a part of things there. And that’s where this painting comes in. Long time readers know my dad was a huge train buff, so I created this painting for the tattoo studio lobby in hopes that I’ll feel like he’s taking part in this next phase of my life.
And in case you don’t already know: Know a caregiver, or someone with dementia, or someone who knows someone with dementia, or someone who knows someone who knows someone else who’s a caregiver? Or heck, do you know a person? Well, you should tell them about my book, Fractured Memories: Because Demented People Need Love, Too. Part memoir and part coffee table art book, I recount my family’s heartbreaking and hilarious journey through my father’s dementia. Available to purchase here (this is my favorite way if you live in the U.S.), here or here if you’d rather get the eBook than a print copy, and here (especially if you want a hard cover copy).