Sappy Sentiment

When my son was young, I used to get incredibly sappy about the "lasts." So many parents celebrate the "firsts" - steps, words, the solo jump off the diving board, so many others. And yes, those are beautiful moments indeed, and I recorded many of them myself.

But the things that would devastate me were the "lasts." The last time I rocked him, carried him, nursed him, heard him call me "mama" - those used to hurt, because I could only see them in the rearview mirror. As a parent you don't know that's the last time you'll ever pick him up when he's crying, the last time he'll cuddle with you when he's feeling sick, the last time that his face will light up when he sees you in the crowd of parents picking up the kids from school.

Sappy, indeed. No argument. But you just don't know the last time you'll ___________ until it's stopped completely, and you realize you'll never have it again. It's beautiful: you want this for them, an important milestone for them on their path to become independent beings. Yet it's painful too, requiring you to let go as they no longer need you.

Before my father broke his hip and was still living in the house with us, I would try hard not to get frustrated or criticize him for the very same reason. I didn't want to wish this phase away, since I knew I'd miss it when it was gone. But unlike the "lasts" with my son, it's not something I wanted for him. It's not that he'd outgrow the behavior; it would be the "last" because he'd no longer be capable.

If the cheese grater was missing - as it always was -- I would try to remember that he was still trying to put the dishes away, even if the measuring cups would be hung on the coffee mugs or the spatula was in the knife block. If he drank all the coffee, he was still serving himself and *always* offering me some. If he scrubbed my iron skillets with soap, at least he was still cleaning up after dinner, and this would not always be the case. When he asked five times a day, "Where do we keep the broom?", he was still frequently sweeping the floor each day, even if it always ended with his asking "where does this go?" when he'd already forgotten where the broom was kept.

And here I am, reminiscing about all the "lasts" that I didn't see until they were gone. While his immediate future remains uncertain as he tries to recover from an injury he doesn't remember, I'm not sure he'll ever again check the mailbox twenty times a day, or lock me out of the house while walking the dogs, or interrupt my Zoom meetings with whatever random thought or act has crossed his mind.

And I'm not gonna lie: I miss it. Yes, it's also liberating not to have to answer the same questions multiple times, hide things from him, or plan entire schematics or logistical situations to keep him contained. Like a bad relationship, I didn't know how much his dementia required of me until it wasn't here living with me 24/7.

But I also didn't want what was next. I didn't want him to be in pain, or in a place with people he couldn't remember, or feeling confused and abandoned as he does right now, no matter how much we try to explain the situation to him.

I haven't heard him whistle since he broke his hip one month ago, and as I've written about before, whistling is his thing and what I miss the most right now ( I have long suspected the whistling somehow subconsciously grounded him, kept him with us. Maybe he has whistled, and I just haven't been with him at the right time to hear it, though it was always a constant, not an occasional thing. Or did I hear him whistle for the "last" time already? Have I lost such a big part of him forever?

Putting mail out for me last September, likely whistling while he was doing it

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