Ups and Downs and Special Moments

The past few days Dad has had his ups and downs. This past Friday, he called Larry and me. He sounded coherent, but he said he didn’t know where he was. As usual, I assured him he was at Mountain Valley and that I would be there in the afternoon. He said he was all right. He seemed quite lucid at dinner. I had a good visit.

Yesterday when I arrived, he was up and in his wheel chair but sleeping. He woke up right away when I spoke to him. Before going to the dining room we went back to his room where I put a couple of bananas in his top drawer. Then he needed to go to the bathroom. He asked me if the birthday party was still on. I told him it was and asked why he asked. He said, he thought it supposed to have happened but didn’t. I told him we had 3 weeks to go. He also said something about how good it was to see me and that I hadn’t been out all week. I told him I had been there every day. He said he couldn’t remember my being there. I joked with him that he was giving me an easy out now. I could come only once a week and he wouldn’t know the difference.

I brought him a couple of hot dogs and some yogurt. He ate it all and enjoyed it. As we sat together, I told him that we might consider my interviewing him at his party so that he didn’t have to try to remember any prepared remarks. He seemed to like that, and I started a trial interview. He repeated what a good life he has had. We talked a little about the ups and downs of life. I asked him what the most difficult time of his life had been. He thought a moment and said, “I guess when my father left us.” I said, “Tell me more about that.” He said, “Well, I guess I was ashamed.” This is the very first time I have ever heard him say anything this self-revelatory. I have long suspected that he was hurt by his father’s departure from the family and knew that he had explored trying to find him when I was about 12 years old.

I asked him about any school teachers that he recalled. That led to his mentioning somebody in his junior high school who had taken an interest in him. He said it was in the 8th grade that he developed a personality. He went on to say that he thought his personality throughout his adult life and today was shaped by those days in the 8th grade.

As we talked he asked me, “Do you think I’m getting senile?” I said, “no, I wouldn’t say that. I would say that your stroke has affected your brain and that makes you confused sometimes and causes you to have some delusions.” Then he said, “I’m not ashamed of my dementia.” I told him there was no reason to be ashamed, that many people suffered from dementia.

Our conversation went on perhaps a total of 40 minutes or so before we went back to his room. We both felt good. He commented again on how glad he was that I had come out. When I tucked him into bed, he thanked me again and told me that I had taken good care of him. I told him we had done it together. He said, “Well, you’ve done three-fourths of it.” I told him, “We have walked a long way on this road, and we’ll walk the rest of the way together.” I left feeling very good.

Last night around 10:30, he called and asked if I were coming to pick him up. He thought it was time for the party. I reminded him that we have 3 more weeks. Then he asked, “Is Elizabeth here?” Elizabeth is an Eastern Star friend who is driving up from Gainesville, Florida, for the party. So he continues to show more confusion than is normal for him. Once again, I think this is going to become common in the days ahead. I am thankful for the special moments like yesterday afternoon and will try to remember them rather than the down times.