I’ll Watch the Snow With You

My mom and I had a discussion about my father today.  

For those of you who do not know, my father has a condition called “corticobasal degeneration”.  It is, in a nutshell, similar to Alzheimer’s and is every bit as cruel and heartbreaking.  It is neurological and irreversible.  Two words I have grown to hate in the last year.  

We began to notice that something was not right with my father about 3 years ago when he began walking almost as if in slow motion and would stand with his arms drawn up into his sides.  As time progressed, we noticed that he was having trouble remembering little things.  Fast forward to the present… 

Today my father doesn’t always know who we are.  He is confused much of the time and the most painful part for us as his family is the feeling of complete and utter helplessness just having to sit by and watch this happen to someone you so dearly love.  My father is not in any sort of physical pain and for that I will be eternally thankful.  He is, unfortunately, keenly aware that something is not right with him and I know it frightens him.  

Some days dad doesn’t know where he lives and some days he can’t recognize who we are.  The first day I witnessed this happen at his house was just a few months ago.  My dad couldn’t name one of Jessica’s children and in that tiny instant I felt like the whole world fell apart.  We try as hard as we can not to let him see us cry, although it isn’t always possible.  I can’t speak for Jessica or my mom, but I try to save my sadness for the privacy of my car or my home.  We want dad to know that we are all okay and that we are always going to be here for him.  We’ve told him this many, many times.  I’ve often thought about how terrifying it must be to have your memory slowly leave you.  Years and years of family trips, experiences, life- just trickle out little by little.  I can’t really let myself think about it for too long because the feelings are just too overwhelming. 

My mom told me today that she saw my dad standing in the hallway looking through the glass pane of their front door.  She said that he turned and looked up the stairs and shouted out, “Amanda, come down here!  Look, it’s snowing!”  My mom said, “I’m sure he thought you were a little girl and still lived at home with us.”  I don’t know where my dad was at that moment in his own mind, but I want to make a promise to him.  This is the best way I know to express it: 

 
 

I’ll watch the snow with you, dad 

No matter where you are. 

I know sometimes inside your mind 

It feels you’ve traveled far. 

I’ll watch the snow with you, dad 

However you see me- 

A woman grown with children now 

Or pig-tailed girl of three. 

I’ll watch the snow with you, dad 

And if you forget my name, 

Please don’t feel sad or think I’m mad 

I love you just the same. 

I’ll watch the snow with you, dad 

Wherever you may be. 

I’ll watch the snow with you, dad 

I’m just glad you’re here with me. 

  

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26 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jennifer Belt
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 18:08:45

    Amanda….I know this is heartbreaking. My dad has never been through what your dad is going through, but he did have a brain Aneurysm about 6 years ago. It is soooo hard to feel so helpless. He had to relearn a lot of things. Now he is basically back to normal and I am so thankful for each extra day that I have with him. My uncle Don had Alzheimers and it is a sad disease that takes away a lot from a person. I’m praying for your dad and for your family.

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    • mandaclair
      Feb 11, 2010 @ 19:19:47

      Jennifer, thanks so much for sharing that. It’s just horrible to see your parent sick and/or hurting. My whole family appreciates the prayers so much. I’m so glad to hear that your father is doing so well. God is good.

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  2. Pat Lenzini
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 18:16:25

    Dear sweet Amanda, That is one of the sweetest and heartbreaking at the same time stories I’ve ever heard. I pray for the loving,healing arms of the Lord wrap around you Jessica,sweet carolyn(that I love dearly) Tripp and all the grandchildren . I never stop praying for your family and I never forget. I love you Pat

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  3. elfinfun
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 21:00:44

    Wow. The tears just flow, my friend. Thank you. You are in a very unique situation, as we have talked about. When someone you love is terminally ill, God affords us the opportunity to witness the slow dying in a horribly wonderful way. We will talk about the other blessing in this situation a few years down the road. I love you guys so much. Just remember, even in those dark corners of Tripp’s mind, he will still find Jesus there. I promise.

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  4. Tony C
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 21:09:09

    Dear Lord…that just breaks my heart.

    I can immediately say two things without any reservation: 1. I’ve always loved your dad. From the first time I met Tripp, he always projected sincerity and generousity. He is a most genuine man. 2. Your dad is truly one of the best people I’ve had the priviledge of knowing…a true blessing from God. He is a devout Christian and has never hesitated to show that in whatever company he might find himself.

    God has purpose in all He does even though it’s hard to chew on at times. Tripp Elder continues to be a bright shining light for God’s love even now…especially now. He was always so quick to tell a story or brag about you, Jessica or Caroline and deflect attention away from himself. A can’t think of a better testimony for Christ than what Tripp has demonstrated in his daily walk.

    May God pour His blessing on your family as only He can.

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  5. June
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 22:13:18

    Beautiful….

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  6. mom
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 22:13:35

    Exquisitely agonizing, horribly beautiful…

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  7. Pam Smith
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 23:55:15

    Amanda, This is heartbreaking for you and your family. Your dad is a wonderful man. Ron and I have so many wonderful memories of our time with your parents. I was 27 when my dear mom began her journey into Alzheimer’s disease. She was only 55, similar to your dad. My children were young just like yours. But, this I know, God is faithful, and He will sustain you and your family. He will guide your steps along the way. Mom received her victory with Jesus this past summer. She was a month shy of 85 and joined my father and the Lord. I have been praying for you and your family. I know how hard it is some days, but there are many wonderful memories still being made now for all of you. Love to all of you, Pam

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    • mandaclair
      Feb 12, 2010 @ 15:45:15

      Pam,

      Thanks for these kind words. I do know that God will sustain us all. Frankly, I’m pretty sure this is the only thing keeping our heads above water at this time.

      So sad about your mom. It’s a strange road to travel. How comforting that we can take solace in knowing where these fine people will be waiting for us.

      Thanks,
      Amanda

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  8. Kathy Cazzell
    Feb 12, 2010 @ 00:06:35

    What a beautiful testimony as to what a wonderful father Tripp is to you and Jessica. In a day when so many children do not even know who their father is, you have the privilege of having a wonderful relationship with yours. What a blessing. I am praying for you and your family. Give Carolynn, my mentor, a big hug for me and tell her I love her!

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  9. Rhonda Combs
    Feb 12, 2010 @ 00:37:39

    Amanda-Your poem was beautiful. My granny never had an official diagnosis of anything other than old age, but she slowly lost her memory and at the end, thought I was mom all the time. She wouldn’t let anyone touch her but me, thinking all the while Mom was helping her. I am sure that just broke Mom’s heart.
    I remember your dad from church as such a strong, funny man. I will forever remember this quote, “It takes a real man to live in a pink house!”

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    • mandaclair
      Feb 12, 2010 @ 10:21:32

      Thanks, Rhonda. I’m so sorry to hear about your granny. I’m sure that was very difficult. Until you’ve been there, you just really have no idea do you?

      I love the pink house quote! I can totally hear him saying that! 🙂

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  10. Donna Bailey
    Feb 12, 2010 @ 13:24:10

    Amanda,I’m speechless…just read I’ll watch the snow with you,and I don’t think I made it past the first sentence before tears. Girl, I know you love your Dad,and what an agonizing trial to go through. As for myself,I lost my dad suddenly,even though for years he was stricken with diabetes and heart disease. I have a certain comfort though…years before he died,I told him before leaving the house one day.”hey Dad,ya know what..thanks for taking me to church and being the Christian role model for me..” I just remember him giving me a big hug. of course-I miss him..can’t wait to see him again one day. Thanks for the reading…you know you’re gonna be a famous auther(did i spell that right?) 🙂 love you!

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    • mandaclair
      Feb 12, 2010 @ 15:46:35

      I love you, Donna Bailey. So sweet about your dad. I know you do miss him. We’ll all be having quite a reunion one day, won’t we?!

      We need to get together soon. You’re a good friend.

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  11. Liz Woolridge
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 08:53:54

    Amanda – I know the depths of your heart from where your poem came. When I was 12, Dad was 39 and was diagnosed with Amyatrophic Lateral Sclerosis – ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease. From the day of that diagnosis, life as we knew it was never the same. He too noticed small peculiar things . he was a cop and could no longer write his daily reports. He was slowly losing his fine motor skills. He was also diagnosed with diabetes at this same time and doctors thought it was diabetic neuropathy. It seemed like a whirlwind, but dad slowly lost the ability to use his hands, then his arms, his legs, his speech,and at the last few days, he lost everything, except for his mental faculties. The doctors told my parents that he had 18 months to live, and that he could possibly extend that for a few months if we moved to a warmer climate. We moved from Long Island, New York to podunk Florida (LOL) the week before Christmas break my 8th grade year. What a lonely existence. To make a long story short, the doctors gave him 18 months, God gave him 12 years. I did not go further than community college because mom needed me at home. My brother went into the service because it got to be too much for him at home. Mom worked til 4 and I was her replacement. When I got married, my brother walked down the aisle in front of me and I walked on mom’s arm. There are NO pics of me coming down the aisle for Dad blocked me in all of them I have not one regret. Dad held the place of honor and I was so just thankful to have him there. He never got to meet his grandkids. He lived long enough to see me get married and 7 months later, my twin got engaged. His work was done on this Earth and he died 6 wweeks later. Not sure why I told you all this except to say I know the pain you feel and how you miss your healthy dad, for this man is but a shell. Cherish him.

    Much love and a BIG hug
    Liz

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  12. Kelly S.
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 15:21:02

    sweet friend, that poem was beautiful. My dad died when he was 49….had cancer the first time at 38. I am thankful to know where he is and that I will see him again 🙂

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  13. Joline Moore
    Feb 16, 2010 @ 21:00:52

    My Dad has had the onset of Alzheimer’s for several years now. His father died of that as he took care of him and went to the nursing home daily with him calling him Fred (his brother) or not knowing him at all. He has been on Aricept for the last 2 years and that has helped him retain his memory greatly! He still forgets daily things like why he was in the garage and which cat he is holding. But so far, he still remembers the big things.
    It breaks my heart to think that one day soon he may not. I pray for you and your family for what you are all going through. It is heartbreaking.

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  14. Shirley
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 19:43:56

    Wow! Made me cry. I will pray for you and your entire family.

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  15. Jessica
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 16:53:03

    ACE, I’ve been avoiding reading this one for a bit now. I had a few quiet moments to read it today. May I say how grateful I am that you can express in your writings what my heart is, also. This poem is precious and painful. As is this whole experience. I’m so grateful for you, Mom, and Dad.

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    • Brenda Curtis Becker
      Mar 23, 2010 @ 04:32:39

      I am so sorry you (we) all have to go through these times….I just read this Amanda after awaking this morning at 3AM …praying for you and yours…I can’t stop the flow of tears, I try and they continue to flow. I have been there too, not with the same exact disease, but so much of bits and pieces that are near the same…I know how you and Jessica love your father and I just want to share….on the death bed of my father (whom had been relieved of pain and had his eyes shut for over 24 hrs. ) peacefully resting -waiting upon the Lord….it was 10 minutes before his time to meet the Lord…I got up and held his hand along with my mother on the other side. I told him, that he had been the best professor in all the world to me, I had attended the best college through him, and I’d promise to share with my future family members and share with others what he had taught me. Told him I loved him, said Happy Fathers Day, (he died noon before Fathers Day , June 13th, 1998) and now to go home, make our mansion with Jesus, we’d see him someday when it was our time. This is a true story…. my fathers eyes OPEN up, looked up to the left , straight into my mothers eyes, THEY BOTH puckered up their lips and she leaned over and kissed him…He CLOSED HIS EYES and I said, Glory, Daddy is with Jesus. Amanda, I’ve always described my daddy’s death, a beautiful dying, but it wasn’t just that….I saw Jesus come and get his hand and lead him to the heavens. I love you all dear, and I know I’ve been led to this group and ministry for a reason and I shall never wonder why. With tears drying up, as if the sun is rising and bright…….rejoice, we have had fathers, daddy’s… that taught us about Jesus so we can teach others and lead them to HIM , our Almighty Father in Heaven. PRAISE THE LORD. God Bless all of you, My prayers always.

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