Going Home

An essay about the anguish of living far away from my aging parents in Taiwan, especially during my mom’s decline into paranoia and dementia after her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, culminating in a terrifying episode where she ran away from home.

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"She seldom ventured out anymore, and often didn’t enjoy being out for more than a short period of time before complaining that she was tired and wanted “to go home.” Outings that she once enjoyed – bookstores, museums, occasional shopping trips – she lost interest in. No matter where they were – at the local vegetable market, in Taipei visiting the doctor, or attending a large family gathering – my dad would cut short whatever they were doing, make polite excuses if needed, and take my mom home.

My dad never believed that he was doing anything but accommodating her wishes. So whenever she whined “I want to go home” when they actually were at home, he was bewildered. “We are home,” he would insist. But my mom would put on her jacket and make for the door with a sense of urgency he could never understand. “Where are you going?” “I want to go home!” She’d howl as though he was detaining her against her will."