Travels with Dad
—-This is a story of a complex relationship with my father, Al, who I came to love and understand after he was diagnosed with dementia.—-
With 5 kids, birthday parties happened often throughout the year. We were able to pick the kind of cake we wanted, and invite all of the neighborhood kids over for the celebration. There weren’t many kids because we lived in the “country.” But because our group was small, we were all very close.
Al was the highlight of these parties. He had an audience with all of us kids, our mother, and his mother-in-law, and he took advantage of that. Our presents always arrived on the scene in a large paper bag (plastic was unheard of “WAY BACK THEN”). Al was in charge of handing each gift to the birthday child.
We’d all wait in suspense for him to pull a nicely wrapped gift from the bag. Instead, what often appeared was an old shoe, a dog bone, or an empty bottle. He mixed handing over these gag gifts with the real ones. We would all scream when an unwrapped, and unwanted gift appeared, which would encourage Dad to top his shenanigans for the next birthday.
These birthday gatherings remain a significant childhood highlight.