I sat completely still not even wanting to breathe too loudly. I was hoping he might forget I was here and he would calm down.
“Is that CLEAR…!!!???” he shouted at me again.
“Yes dad” I said as my eyes filled with tears. I refused to cry though because I knew I needed to be tougher than this.
“Well answer me when I speak to you” he screamed.
I looked up despite my fear and met the very angry eyes of my father, a man who hardly ever raised his eyebrow in disapproval never mind his voice. I looked straight back down again and tried to remember what mum had told me.
“It’s not him love, it’s the disease”
“Don’t be so sensitive and don’t take it personally”
Then I remembered her best piece of advice
“When he gets angry go sit in another room for a few minutes and give him some time alone, then come back in and talk to him.”
I was just about to leave when dad suddenly got up from his chair and left the room.
The rain was pouring hard on this cold November evening and I prayed he wasn’t about to walk out the front door because that meant I’d have to go after him. Whenever dad felt angry or frustrated (which was often) he would go for a walk to get some fresh air. It calmed him down and as a kid I remember him being happiest when he was outside working on the garden. Most days either myself, one of my two elder brothers or my mum walked by his side but sometimes he’d forget who we are and become angry about the fact that we were ‘following him’ so lately we have started walking 10 steps behind him instead.
I sighed in relief as I heard the living room door creak open and slam shut. Dad had decided to stay in this time. The slam of the door caused the painting above it to fall. I walked over and picked it up. It was one dad had painted years ago when he was younger and first met mum. A solitary boat bobbed on the sea as the two occupants lay in each others arms watching the sunset.
On his good days dad told us the story of how he came to paint that picture and the wonderful time they had had on their first holiday away together.
The sudden sound of shuffling feet made me run back into the kitchen and sit down. In that moment I really wished I hadn’t agreed to stay with him. It was a cruel thought and I hated myself for thinking it but 90 minutes with dad seemed like a lifetime. There was less than 20 minutes before mum returned and I reminded myself that she deserved a break. I felt guilty as I realised that this was something dad would never get a break from and that life for dad will always be lived in a haze.
As he entered the kitchen I said with as much cheer as I could muster “want a cuppa dad?”
He looked at me with a happy face and a big smile, placed his hand on my back and gave it a pat “good idea” he said “I was just coming in to ask you the same thing.”
I went over to put the kettle on. Dad looked at me.
“I get so fed up sometimes” he said “Not that that is a reason to take it out on you.”
I knew that was his way of saying he was sorry. I didn’t know what to say. I never did. I knew dad felt bad. He always knew he had been angry. Sometimes he was visibly upset at the fact that one of us was crying because of something he had done. Although he knew deep down he was the cause of our tears he was never quite sure why or what he had done.
I put tea bags in a cup and continued making the tea.
The Alzheimer haze of a loving dad is a flash fiction story written in early 2013 that was edited a little and added to my first book The Last Hut.