Stillwater News Press

Local Columnists

February 22, 2014

Down Home 02-23-14

Wish I could complain about dementia dilemmas again

While listening to a friend on the subject of forgetful parents who misplace items, forget names, dates and places, I found myself wishing I could “complain” once again about Dad’s dementia dilemmas.

I miss the days of being blamed for everything from owing taxes to him not being able to drive. I miss being the one who supposedly stole his money, invaded his privacy and wrecked his life, while at the same time, being the one he thanked for remembering everything he’d forgotten.

Dad’s birthday is coming up and he continues to amaze me, at 89 years young, he’s still doing his best to cause havoc. He strolls the nursing home hallways in his wheelchair, pedaling his feet as fast as they will go. The chest congestion he’d been battling has now passed and although the prostrate problems aren’t gone, he seems to be doing fairly well.

When he was able to communicate, I remember feeling as though I’d go crazy answering the same questions over and over again. Having to hunt for his wallet, remote and anything else he deemed valuable and would hide, and forget where he put it. Now all I can do is hope for one word that doesn’t sound like gibberish.

I miss the twinkle in his eyes when I’d come home to find him feeding the dog a package of ho-ho’s and then, with a chocolate filled smile, swear he hadn’t eaten any of them. I miss “our” notebook which sat on the dining room table and held the information that would guide him through the day while I was at work. At his place, at the table, he could watch the birds, watch the clock and read and then re-read his daily agenda.

I remember the exact day and time I had to write, in our notebook, my name, as this piece of information slipped his mind and seemed to cause him more anxiety than not knowing what day, month or year it was. At that point in time, it was a fleeting forgetfulness that would come back to him if he stared at me long enough. Since our notebook told him what time I’d be coming from work, more times than not, he’d be sitting at the table, reading the notebook, and then proudly greet me by name when I walked in the door. I love how he worked so hard to remember me.

It’s been three years since he’s recognized me, much less say my name. Even as upsetting as it was, when he went through the phase at the nursing home and thought I was his girlfriend, that was better than nothing.

I miss the days he’d sit for hours sorting the same nuts and bolts, or cutting up cardboard boxes. A small task for anyone else, but for Dad, it was a way to feel useful. When he went to the nursing home I sent him with his poker chips and holder. With poker being a favorite past time throughout his life, he loved sorting through the chips and putting them back in their appropriate holders. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him take any interest in that kind of busy work and assumed the poker chips and holder were long gone.

I decided this visit would be a short one, as he was preoccupied in the wheelchair and wouldn’t acknowledge anything around him but his moving feet. I turned around one last time to see him fiddling with his pocket.

Smiling a toothless smile, he handed me a blue poker chip.

Sandy Turner writes about family and lives in the Midwest.

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