My father is in adult daycare. There are clients there from every spectrum of the elderly. There are the geriatric patients who still have the heart and mind of someone 50 years their junior but the balance of a drunken preschooler. There are those who have been in accidents and need constant supervision and therapy. Some just enjoy the company and stimulation and lastly there are those who are well into the throes of dementia. My father falls into this last group. He’s been manageable (hate that term) thus far but now in he past two months there has been what can only described as severe slippage.
My mother and I speak often. We see each other often and we are on the phone multiple times a day. She called me last week to inform me that my father had been accosted. His pristine reputation had been sullied. Someone played grab ass with him.
My father, in his prime, was the master of the timing of a joke. He could veer up to bawdy and then side step it gracefully with a smile that denoted just how wicked he could get. When he hopscotched into flat out dirty no one did it better. Even now there is a spark in his eye when he’s having a good day that is akin to the sun coming out. It reminds me of who he really is.
In spite of all of this, he now turns into a Scottish spinster, sputtering with the appropriate level of austerity and outrage about his virtue. My mom went to pick him up and they went to the closet to play seven minutes in heaven…I’m kidding; they grabbed his backpack and coat. Yes. He has his own backpack. It’s adorable. And tiny little Alzheimer’s patient snaked her hand into the closet and grabbed my father by the belt, undies, and the back of his jeans and spat out the irate inquiry, “You’re not leaving me here all alone are you Walter?”
He spun and said through gritted teeth “I am not Walter and this is my wife of 48 years and I do not want you grabbing me!” One of the nurses on the staff came up to diffuse the situation and said to Ms. Goose, “No honey. This is JB. This isn’t Walter. Walter will be here later to get you.” Ms. Goose then replied….
Wait for it…..
You really can’t make this shit up. And I’m a writer.
I see how he tries to hide his bad days. On Sunday he prowled through my house like he was looking for something. We were due to go to a party and he was simply not having a good day. About three times a week he demands to know the marriage deets from my mother. God love her, she has to pull out their wedding album and marriage certificate. She has to pull out utility bills and bank statements. Like a lot of Alzheimer’s patients, he fixates and there are moments we just don’t know which JB he is. Is he the JB who served in the Navy and hasn’t met my mother yet? Is he still in school? Is he a young man starting his family? Is he the rough and tumble fireman who smokes and drinks and swears and dotes in his family and makes excuses every Sunday that he’s sick so he can get out of going to church? Or has he forgotten all of this? It depends on the day and sometimes even the minute we’re dealing with at any given moment. You’ve just got to roll with it. It’s nice to know all these years later he wants a marriage and not a fling. He proposed to her a few months ago. Pretty cute!
We went to Carrabba’s for my father-in-law’s birthday, like any good Polish family (husbands-not mine) should. There was enough food floating around that long table to feed a town. We had plates of appetizers, two of which I know perfectly well are favorites of JB’s; one being shrimp scampi. He made the blech face that he used to scold me for. Full blechage.
Except, you know, a 78 year old man.
Two minutes later he sweetly said as he pointed to the shrimp dish, “I didn’t get any of those. They look good.” I heaped them on to his plate as he happily munched away, beaming at me that I was the nice girl who gave him food. Except I’m not a girl. I’m a woman taking care of her Dad. It’s amazing how our perception of aging applies to everyone but us. I still refer to men and women I went to school with as boys and girls. Pretty sure they’d punch me if they heard it but there you have it….boys and girls.
Sorry couldn’t help it. This shit was getting heavy.
I’m still his little girl and he’s still my Daddy and therein lies the rub. When your parent is failing or even less hearty than what they once were we have to go through what I refer to as a time warp (in a complete opposite sense of Rocky Horror). I’m not a girl. He’s no longer the strongest man in the world. My mother isn’t omnipotent and my daughter is now an adult. Time…you cruel cruel bitch. Yesterday I was twenty. Yesterday he was strong. Yesterday my mother was the energizer bunny.
Having said that, sans bitterness, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. Maybe Walter can get his own ass grabbed.