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Memory Battles and Father’s Love

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Where the Heart Resides

By: Amanda Hyslop  |  June 6, 2024

My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's last September. Despite all the signs, and even my father's own admissions of memory slips that hinted at dementia, none of us could really accept it until the doctor confirmed the diagnosis. Even then, the diagnosis was tough to swallow, like a shot of whiskey—sharp, burning, and unexpectedly overwhelming.

My father is known for his intellect. He had a robust career in electrical engineering, spent a month doing research at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, and holds crazy amounts of patents for inventions on memory device testers, CMOS sense amplifiers, and processors. But ask him what his greatest achievement is and he will tell you it is his children.  

"Live by the sword; die by the sword," goes the old saying. For my father, his brain, the very tool that forged his path through life, has become his most challenging battlefield. It's a cruel irony. A mind once capable of such mental prowess, responsible for advancements in computer memory, now struggles with his own memory. My father, the scientist, the explorer, the inventor, now embarks on the most human of all explorations—navigating the twilight of his own cognitive universe. 

Did you know Alzheimer's disease typically begins in the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for short-term memory? This explains why some individuals with Alzheimer's often struggle to remember recent events but still retain the ability to perform tasks involving muscle memory, such as playing music or dancing. Regions of the brain that are involved in music and motor processing like the cerebellum are not affected by Alzheimer’s until much later in the disease. According to the doctors, my father is currently in the middle stage of the disease.

In this stage, people with Alzheimer's often struggle with language, memory, and comprehension. They may find it difficult to follow complex discussions or recall recent events. To make our conversations more meaningful and less stressful for him, I keep my sentences short and simple, and I try to talk about familiar topics that he can relate to-funny things my kids say, what I am cooking for dinner, and of course his team, the Dallas Cowboys.

As Father's Day approaches, I reflect on the impact my father has had on my life. From his goofy math sayings like "Motivate...exponentiate" to his unwavering passion for physics and the universe, my father's influence has made me who I am— a woman who loves science, geeks out on all things NASA, and holds a firm belief the secret to the perfect burger lies in a slice of jalapeño placed on top.  

Despite the challenges Alzheimer's has brought my father, his love and intellect continue to shine through. To my father and all fathers who inspire, nurture, and love —Happy Father's Day. 

Amanda Hyslop is rocking the mom life with two whip-smart kiddos, Sienna & William, and her hubby, Bill, who has a knack for dad jokes. By day, she's a go-to Advice Nurse at Tamalpais Pediatrics; by night, you'll find her playing the keys or hitting the pavement for a run. Amanda's all ears for your thoughts and will get back to you – just as soon as she locates that pesky missing sock!
More from this issue:

Daddy, Let’s Play! HERE >> 

Fun Father’s Day Ideas HERE >> 

Memory Battles and Father’s Love HERE >> 

Osher Marin JCC Preschools and Early Childhood Education Center - San Rafael & Mill Valley HERE >> 

The Modern Renovation - Harnessing Technology in the Home for Tech-Savvy Dads HERE >>