Stagecoach Beetle

stagecoach beetle

Stagecoach Beetle

What is a Stagecoach Beetle?

When I went home to see my parents for the first time since the start of the pandemic it had been four years since we had last visited. They have gotten on in years and I knew to expect significant change. The delay in visiting was not of my choosing, but rather in deference to my mother’s concerns about COVID. This spring (2023) she finally agreed to a visit. A sense of foreboding hung over me as the trip approached. 

Several months before when I talked with my dad he mentioned to me that they were in Virginia where he grew up and were staying in a really nice place. I knew they were at home, they still use a landline, and what he was saying was impossible. It was clear to me from that moment that my dad had dementia. Most of our conversations of recent were about the topic of World War II, perhaps that is because he knew it well and felt confident discussing it. The experience of being a small child during the war definitely had a big impact on him and his view of the world.

A few weeks before I arrived my mom finally revealed to me what was already clear, that my dad had been diagnosed with dementia. It was certain in my mind that what awaited me was going to be a shitshow and reality did not disappoint.

Brains allow us to do and achieve so many things. They do simple and yet complex tasks like walking, moving, grasping, and more abstract things like envisioning, imagining, considering, planning, and evaluating. As age takes its toll the brain starts wearing down and not working as efficiently. Names are forgotten, things get lost, experiences fade, the slate slowly being wiped clean as we loosen our grip on this reality and start slipping towards the next one. I was not fully prepared to witness what that unraveling would look like for them.

Every time I land and leave North Carolina, I pass through Wake Forest to see my brother and his family. This is the relaxing/restorative part of the trip. Bookending my trip this way helps me prepare and then process. I had arrived with my girls and spent two days playing with baby chicks and visiting my nephew at college and on Sunday we had a relaxing morning and I took some time to rest. When I awoke, and went down stairs, my brother was on the phone with my mom, who had called. She said that my father had threatened to kill her and that he had threatened to kill me, too and that I shouldn’t come. I told her I would be there shortly. I loaded up the car and we headed out with no idea what I would find when I arrived. It’s often hard to know what is what.

When I pulled into town I stopped at the place we were staying a few blocks from my parents’ house. Unloaded, put together a quick meal for my daughters, set them up with some entertainment, and told them to text if they needed me. Considering the uncertainty I was walking into it seemed best to leave them out of it. My mom called me a bit frantic sounding, saying that my dad was at the top of the stairs in front of her door. I hurried on my way. When I arrived my mom answered the door and my dad was right there, too, at the bottom of the stairs up to my mom’s room. He looked haggard in a way I had never seen. His beard was long and seemed to have been growing for several years, it also seemed like he had not had a haircut. Tears came to my eyes at the sight of them. I gave them both a hug, and my dad smiled at me with his gentle twinkly eyes. Then he asked me if I could see something in the corner next to the door. I asked him what it was and he said it was a ‘Stagecoach Beetle’. “Cool,” I said. I asked him if he was hungry, he said yes, and then he hobbled into the kitchen. He was so frail it seemed like if I poked him really hard with my finger that he would fall over into a heap on the floor. It was hard to imagine him having the capacity to kill anyone or anything, or even being capable of going up the stairs. I found some soup in their fridge, which I heated up and fed to him. The next morning I gave him a haircut and trimmed his beard.

Written by jennalex

Artist and designer who explores the relationship between the natural world and the digital world and aims to create art and design that expands people's consciousness and creates meaningful experiences.

June 20, 2023