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.—-
My father was a brutally honest man. People, including family, neighbors, dentist office personnel, and gas station attendants knew exactly where they stood with him. His honesty was all encompassing…until he was well into his dementia. The “Honest-Abe” was now a concept that eluded him. The filters that guide “law-abiding” behavior became non-existent. I’m referring to his new found desire to take whatever he wanted, from whoever, and wherever he wanted.
Over the years, we found many items in his pockets that didn’t belong to him, like costume jewelry from Wal Marts, and a huge bag of Hershey Kisses from Price Chopper. He was slick about it and never got caught. It was Mom who would discover these items in his pockets at the end of the day.
From Restaurants, he’d not only come home with a doggie bag, but also with silverware and cloth napkins. On one occasion, he stuffed 4 cloth napkins in his winter coat pocket while the bus boy was watching. My brother Paul was also a witness, and said to the bus boy: “He has Alzheimer’s…sorry.”
From my house, he stole my mother-in-law’s newly washed and pressed blouse. I saw him do it. He took out the back door…kind of running. It took a while of joking with him to get him to give it up. My mother-in law was amused. She thought it was cute…I agreed.
Another klepto incident at my house was when he swiped a bag of hardware that Brian and our Neighbor were using to put up a fence. They immediately accused him of taking these screws, which upset me. They didn’t see him do it, so I accused them of misplacing it. Later, I reached into Al’s shirt pocket, and sure enough, there they were. If it was small enough to hide in a pocket, he got away with it.
One day, close to Halloween, I had Al and some kids over for decorating and ghost stories. We were all sitting in a circle when my father decided to get up and take little Stormy’s coat that was on the ground behind her. Stormy was mortified. She watched in disbelief as I tried and tried to get Al to give up the coat. He would not. I whispered to her that I promised to get it back from him, which I eventually did by distracting him and quickly prying it out of his hands. Stormy was relieved.
Al helped himself to a customer’s gloves in a store in Lake Placid one day. The customer took them off and set them on the counter. Big mistake! Al spotted them and grabbed them. I caught a glimpse that this was about to go down, but was not positioned where I could have prevented it. It took 15 minutes to get the gloves back to their owner. The glove owner was so patient and understanding, for which I was grateful.
At Christmas time, we noticed that the baby Jesus was missing from the indoor nativity scene. After 3 days, it finally dawned on my mother to check Dad’s winter coat pocket. Yes, the baby lay swaddled in Al’s care. Jesus was unharmed and returned to the manger.
When my mother realized that Al had this new behavior, she had the ingenious idea to carry some paperwork from Al’s physician’s office that documented his dementia. She was prepared to show it to any “official” who “caught” Al stealing. It never came to that, because as I said, he was slick.