King Conch - by Melissa Taggart

It was time again to visit my father at Cornerstone Home. He had been a patient here for seven years; his quick deterioration meant I needed help. Lewy body dementia stole all his prized memories, leaving behind well-formed hallucinations and a long trail of delusions. A once soft-spoken man, now prone to fits of anger. They provided the best care and dignity to my father here; for that I would always be grateful. Although I regretfully admitted coming here is something I no longer wanted to do – his body remains here but his mind could no longer be found.

Walking into the well-lit room I noticed the large picture window. The sun spilled through it onto my father. His hair once black as night, now grey with tinted blue hues. Carrying a large conch shell under my arm, I was digging extra deep in my near-emptied optimism barrel. Hopefully, this would jog some hidden memory tucked away safe in his hippocampus. I laid the conch gingerly on the glass coffee table directly in his view.

I sat down beside him focusing on his eyes as I always had done. He had to be in there somewhere. Emotions soon overcame me. How would I ever reach him? As a young child my dad, a marine biologist, would take me on the beach to pick sea glass. We would hunt for shells, and lovingly he referred to me as princess. As a young girl I knew him to be the king of kings. I never dreamt that one day he would be uncrowned. Now he doesn’t know his own daughter.

Disheartened, my visit now over, it is time to gather my things. I unexpectedly heard a soft voice; it was dad. He said, “Genie, listen to the shell and you’ll always hear the ocean”. Happiness washed away my sadness. Dad did not disappear. That day I decided, I understood, he had just gone for an extended beach vacation. It is where he had been all along. And there he would always be king.


Melissa you captured all the heartache of losing someone to dementia. Someone once told me it seems worst for the relatives/caregivers because they actually witness the deterioration. So glad that the daughter rekindled her hope in believing her Dad had merely taken “an extended beach vacation.” Lovely thought to end with.
I must say that I thoroughly enjoy volunteering with a memory loss group.

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It is not easy to witness that your parents undergo with dementia. But having them physically is still a blessing even they loss their memories. A heartbreaking read, Melissa.

I agree with your comment, Lotchie. Someone I love lost his father to this disease. It is merciless.

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