I'm Here

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Parents provide tremendous gifts to their children throughout life. But when dementia has taken hold the greatest gift can be a simple one – recognition. Susan Dix Lyons has this Perspective.

He’s looking at me with blank eyes, searching for the answer to my question.

My Dad is sitting across the table in a small Italian bistro. My son and I have flown across the country to spend the weekend with him, visiting some of his favorite old places: The beach – where we left his walker behind, took off his shoes, and rolled up his pants so he could shuffle into the ocean’s edge as he pressed against me, the restaurant where our family had gone together for years for grouper sandwiches and homemade chips that my Dad would scoop up by the fistful. The nature preserve, where we tried to remember the names of the birds. Blue heron. Anhinga.

I smile back at him, hoping to relieve the weight of my question. “Susie, Dad. My name is Susie.”

My Dad is 84, with the fingers of dementia raking every corner of his mind. I live hundreds of miles and events away, but I am here, now, feeling the dogged longing of a child, wanting him to know and claim me as his own. “Susie,” I say again, “I’m your daughter.”


My Dad is the gentlest man I’ve ever known. My brothers and I had nicknames for him when we were growing up – Saint Vic, The Buddha. I remember him lying on the cold wooden floor of our house, reaching for our ankles as we played “Mother May I.” I remember him showing up straight from work to coach my soccer games, wearing dress pants and a striped tie, trying not to look worn-out. I remember him sitting in the front window late at night waiting for me, the only light on the street, asleep with a newspaper on his lap as I rolled with my boyfriend into the driveway.

And now I am here – and I want him to remember too. I want him to remember me entering the front door, walking quietly to him in the chair by the window, and placing my hand on his shoulder as I kissed the top of his head.

“Dad,” I’d whisper. “Wake up.”

I want him to stir, to wake, and look up at me with recognition and relief as he says my name, followed by the only thing that seemed to matter to him.


“You’re here.”

With a Perspective, I’m Susan Dix Lyons.

Susan Dix Lyons lives in St. Helena.