When asked that question, most of us wouldn't think a thing in the world about it. Throughout our lives we often meet new people and in the process of learning about one another, that question can often come up, especially if there is already some link or connection, but the questioner is trying to put the connection together a little better. However, that question...who is your daddy?...takes on a whole different light when it is your own mother who asks you.
This was our weekend to stay with Billie. As soon as we got there Friday night, I did my nightly ritual and crawled in bed. (The first week back to school after a break always kicks my butt, so it is nothing unusual for me to be in bed asleep by 9 at the latest.) Connie came over after she got off work, and she, John, Billie, and Zac talked for a while. Connie and I had decided a couple of weeks ago that we were going to go shopping yesterday. As we were out and about, having fun and spending more money than we...well, at least I...should have, we talked about how things are going with Billie, and this is where the question comes in.
Connie told me that on Friday night, Billie looked at her and asked, "Who is your daddy?" It's probably a good thing I was in bed because I probably would have either 1) looked at her like she had lost it (and sadly, that is very near the case), 2) burst out laughing (which would have hurt her feelings), or 3) made some comment about how I hoped it was Sean Connery because then I'd finally get to meet him. (Of the three, the third one would have been the best option, but in my state of exhaustion, I cannot promise that would have been the one I'd have gone with. Honestly, I probably would have combined the three.)
Let's keep in mind that all five of Billie's children were fathered by the same man. Anyone who has a loved one with dementia/Alzheimer's knows that questions such as that aren't really all that uncommon in the later stages, but we (or at least John and I) haven't experienced that with Billie just yet. Sure, she's called John Tim or Tim Danny (heck, I do this with my students on a daily basis), but this is the first time I've been made aware of this total loss of memory for something like who the father of her children are. Sure, we've learned that it is next to impossible to carry on a conversation with her because the short-term memory loss means she can't follow along, but she hasn't had problems with the long-term memory. And since Connie is 46, I think who her father was definitely fits into the long-term memory category.
When Connie took her for her last visit to the GP, they began the paper work for having her put into the dementia unit at Summerford. That could happen in as few as two months. And it won't be pretty or easy. John and I were talking on the way home, and we both think that once she gets there and has people to talk to and visit with, she'll adapt. (We hope so, anyway.) But getting her there won't be without heavy hearts. The really crappy part is that Billie will honestly and truly have more awareness than many of the other residents, but she doesn't have the ability to take care of herself on a day-to-day basis.
Alzheimer's is a disease I would NOT wish on my worst enemy. It is horrible, and there isn't a damn thing that anyone can do, except support Alzheimer's research. Being a caregiver, even a part time caregiver, takes so much patience, dedication, and strength. I have so much respect for those people who are 24-hour caregivers. I don't know that I have the strength to do it, and I know I don't have the patience.