I just walked into my dad's room. He is in deep sleep, and has a baby-like happiness and calmness on his face. I've seen his Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) progressing further over the last few months to a point where he spends his entire day on the bed. His body is growing thinner and thinner by the day; he's basically skin and bones now. Today he actually has a pronounced six pack, as there is no longer much fat left in his body - a slightly funny concept if I'm trying to find humor in the situation. It's hard to see him die slowly day-by-day, and easy to be frustrated that there is no cure for Dementia, and none in sight for years to come. I'm overcome by intense sadness, a deep feeling of regret that I never got to know what kind of a person he was. This regret will haunt me for rest of my life.
I never do this in front of my family - but I cry a lot when no one's around. I'm crying right now as I write this. It's hard to see a free adventurous soul - my dad - in this state. I still remember my first meeting with my dad's neuropsychologist back in 2004. She clearly told me - Dementia is a progressive degenerative disorder. In a few years, your dad will be a vegetable. I can't explain how shocking and hurtful it was to hear those words, however, she continued - it's best to accept this fact emotionally and move on, be strong, and focus your energy to give him the best quality of life possible. It took a couple of years to understand what she meant, but I, along with the rest of my family, eventually got there. However, there are times when I truly miss him. But what I know for sure is that my dad lived life on his terms and was an absolute adventurer. I don't think he would have any regrets of his own. My dad didn't know this was going to happen to him; any regrets are only mine. I wish I had taken the time to get to know him better. I wish I had taken a strong stance and opposed his unhealthy lifestyle habits that most likely led to his current condition. I wish we were a stronger family back then, and wish that we did not wait for this to happen to us to bring us closer together.
Today my father is my son. He is a one-year-old infant in the body of a 63 year old man. Instead of being sad and beat-down about his condition, we celebrate my father every day. We love him as a parent would love and care for their newborn. And we have been enjoying this journey of a very different kind of parenthood. It is also during this journey that I found solace in the Himalaya. Several people ask me -- Why do you go to the Himalaya? And even though I have several reasons, I don't think any of those reasons would seem logical to these people.
Sometimes I feel that I see my father in the Himalaya - metaphorically. I consider the Himalaya my mentor, my friend, my well-wisher, and someone on whom I can always count. These are qualities that one looks for in their parents, and ones I found in the Himalaya. And so for me, the famous John Muir saying "Going to mountains is like going home" is actually true. When I am in the Himalaya, I am with my father. People think I am crazy and take too much risk while climbing mountains. Some people even think I am going on ego trips. But most of them don't know that I'm just going to the Himalaya to be with my father.