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  • Writer's pictureThomas Sweeney

2016: Lansing, Michigan

My father died on May 9th, 2020, but his mental decline started years earlier. The clues were small at first, and seemingly inconsequential. It wasn't until the fall of 2016, when he started sending money to people claiming to be from the IRS, that we realized the full extent of his cognitive issues.

In an effort to help him protect his finances, we sold my dad’s home in Lansing and moved all his things to the condo that he owned near my brother’s house.

In early November, I flew home to help move the remaining items from my dad’s house to his condo in Rockford, five miles from my brother. I took photos as we cleaned, documenting every nook and cranny, every lamp, end table, and countertop that I would never see again.

I spent a few final minutes in my old bedroom, staring at the windowsill where I often sat and longingly looked westward, toward Colorado, where I believed my real life would begin.

On our last day at the house, I stood with my brother and dad on the front steps.

My dad looked out at the lawn and said, “It was good to have lived here as brothers.”

Kevin and I glanced at each other, unsure how to interpret his unusual statement.

“Maybe he thinks of us as his brothers,” whispered Kevin. “Or maybe he isn’t sure who we are.”

I shook my head. My dad had already forgotten why we were selling the house, about the IRS people and the taxes.

“Maybe it’s his synapses misfiring,” I whispered back.

'Maybe none of it means much at all,' I thought.

After moving everything out of the house, I set up a few of my dad’s accounts for online payments. His electricity bill was the only thing we left for him to pay each month by check as he’d done all his life.

I returned to Colorado and left my brother to deal with everything else.

My father’s decline is a story that unfolds within my memoir, and it’s an important story to tell. There’s a fine line between normal, age-related changes and dementia. For more information about warning signs, click here: 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s.

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