Missing Steps by Paul Cavanagh, © 2015, Not That London, Publisher
Dean Lajeunesse has a chip on his shoulder. He was only 10 when his father first started showing signs of early-onset Alzheimer's. Back then, no one knew that the erratic behaviour, memory lapses, and withdrawal from normal everyday activities were signs of a disease. They were embarrassing at best, and stress-inducing every step of the way for everyone touched by his father's illness.
Dean's mother coped the best she could; she worked several jobs, leaned on the neighbours when they needed to borrow their vehicle to track down Dean's Dad after he had wandered off, and tried to stay stoic in the face of his worsening condition.
Dean's brother Perry lost himself in sports, extracurricular activities, and his school studies. Any closeness that had existed between brothers was lost in the confusion surrounding their father's illness.
And Dean? He was left to figure out his Dad's dementia on his own. His response was to draw away from everything and everyone. And even after his father was hospitalized, institutionalized, and then died, Dean still refused to step out of his own shell.
Flash forward several decades and not much has changed for Dean. He is still loathe to let people in to his life and blames others for his lack of intimacy and overall success. But when his boss pulls him into his office to discuss his recent questionable behaviours and erratic performance at work, Dean can't help but fear that perhaps his father's Alzheimer's has struck him. Before he can think too much about it though, he is summoned to his mother's bedside and discovers not only that she is dying, but that his big brother Perry, who was always the successful and popular one, has been diagnosed with the dreaded Alzheimer's disease. And the years of animosity, standoffishness, and enforced separation come tumbling down when their truths are laid bare.
Paul Cavanagh doesn't aim to have you like his characters, but as his stories unfold, you learn to understand them and perhaps get a little insight as to why they act the way they do. We are all formed from the experiences we live, but we don't have to be stuck in their shadows. With a little honesty and insight, we can learn or perhaps unlearn a lifetime's worth of lessons. Sometimes we just have to give life a chance to show us the way and accept help when it is offered.