Chennai Journal
Monday, May 08, 2006

People who know my father often inquire how he is faring in India. In February, I gave a talk at a conference in Mumbai, and I told the audience that I was here with my family including my 88 year old dad. What surprised me is that when I said that I thought he was getting care better than he could get in the U.S., the audience burst into applause.

Overall, Dad's health is pretty good considering his age. He has slowed down a lot since we were in the States, though, and doesn't get around quite as well---he's more wobbly, I notice, and walks more slowly. A few times a day, he has to use one of those lung capacity devices with the balls that rise to the top as you blow air into them. When we left the States a year ago, he was still able to accompany Marty to Costco and push the cart around. When we arrived here, we often used to take him when we went out to dinner. But now, this is quite an ordeal. Every day, he and Ganesh take a couple of short walks back and forth in the apartment complex, and even this will leave him tired.

Ganesh comes six days a week, and stays until about 8 or 8:30 p.m. and he stays all night when we--now I-- am out of town. They watch T.V. together or read---Dad has an array of Titantic, astronomy, and Emily Dickinson books on the coffee table that he picks up---and was quite interested the other day in a article I showed him on the last American survivor of the Titanic, who died at the age of 99. He retains very little of what he reads, but he is still able and interested to do it, and that is what counts.

What is sad for me is seeing him lose more and more of his mental capacity, and yet, despite this, his personality still shines through, and it is really a blessing that he can be with us. He doesn't have Alzheimer's, but more of a garden variety dementia that, although it has robbed him of his short term memory and cognitive ability, has thankfully not taken his wit. One morning when Ganesh was off, Marty went into Dad's bedroom to wake him up. Dad had other ideas, and told Marty petulantly, "Go pick on somebody else." He sometimes doesn't remember that we are in India, so at dinner we play a game where I ask him where we are, until he gets the right answer. But last night when I asked this question he just rolled his eyes at me and said, "why, at the table, dear"---so I think I'm going to have to come up with a new game.

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