I am doing the best I can.

These seven words have been swimming around in my head for weeks. I have put off writing about it, not because I didn’t have time, but because I couldn’t decide how these seven words made me feel.

My dad uttered these words slowly and purposely. Too much was expected of him and instead of getting angry, frustrated and agitated like he normally would, he said those seven words.

As I write this, I am struggling to find the words for how to describe how desperate this sounds coming from my dad. What was going on inside his head that made him stop, think about things, and decide to say this? Was it one of his more lucid moments or was it a learned response from a long ago when he he told us kids to do the best we can in all we do? When I was afraid or worried about completing a task and felt like I couldn’t do it, he would say “Just do the best you can. That is all I can ask.” Now that is all we can ask of him.

He always did the best he could for our family. What must it feel like now to be the one being cared for constantly? It must be frustrating and even maddening to not be able to do what “used” to be his personal best. Does he remember what his “best” used to be? Does that make him sad that his new personal best is a fraction of his former best? I cannot imagine coming to terms with this and can’t wrap my own mind around it.

I am angry that he even has to even think or wonder let alone SAY he is doing his best. He’s in his 13th year of dementia. His eyes tell me how hard he is fighting and my heart is broken for him. This man, this legend in my eyes, is broken. I am feeling helpless because I can’t make him feel the way he used to feel – proud and purposeful.

Dementia steals away your dignity, your purpose and then your memories. Saying it is not fair an resounding understatement. Living a purposeful, meaningful life for 80 years and then having it stripped away from you piece by piece, is more than unfair, it’s unjust. I think too often, what did he do to deserve this? Nothing. He did nothing. It just happened. Dementia chose him. Damn.

I am sure he wouldn’t want me feeling sorry for him, but I sure do. He would want me to focus on the family life we had and the wonderful vacations, family reunions, meals around the table and laughs we had for so many years. Dementia cannot take that away. Does he remember all of those things, does he remember the love, the friendships, the best days of his life? I sure hope so, but I’m not sure. He is too busy doing “the best he can” today and every day, just like always. It takes more energy every day for him to do this and I fear soon, it won’t be enough and he will succumb to the disease. He will have given us the gift of his courage to do his best and he never gave up. That’s the lesson in this. Even in the face of insurmountable odds, he finds the courage to do the best he can. That is what I will take away from this. It is just another lesson he is teaching me even through dementia. Do. The. Best. You. Can. Always.

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