Almost five years ago, when my father was 62, he learned he had Alzheimer’s disease. Over this time, my mother and I have watched his decline. He forgets his friends’ names and can no longer read. Every morning, he sits in a baby blue polka-dot towel and waits for one of us to prompt him to start his day.
Since graduating from college two years ago, I have split my time between my apartment in Brooklyn and my parents’ house in Hastings-on-Hudson. Every week, I pack a bag and take the train 30 miles north to help with the caregiving. I joke about how it’s confusing to live in two places. “It’s like I have divorced parents,” I say as I hug my roommates goodbye.
I struggle to understand myself as a 23-year-old who is also taking care of a parent. I feel stiff when my roommates get dressed for work and ask which shoes I like best, or when they talk about their goals: what they want to do, where they want to live. I marvel at the ease with which they can sound so sure of their freedom and choices.
When Nonna’s memory fails her, she returns to familiar gestures. On a weekend afternoon in winter 2021, she offers me a piece of hard licorice...