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.—-
We were on a mission……the four of us. Mom, Dad, myself and Camelot. Camelot was a family member’s dog who was moving to Florida to live with another relative. We met the group intercepting him in southern Virginia, bid our farewells to Camelot, and headed towards home. Al’s brother, Addie, and his family live in Northern Virginia, so we took advantage of our time and position to visit them. Mom explained to Al that we were going to stop and visit his brother. Al acknowledged the message.
We arrived in the afternoon, and Aunt Mary showered us with hospitality. Uncle Addie was at work when we arrived, but he knew we were coming. A few hours later, Addie walked through the door, and into the kitchen. Al could hardly contain his excitement at seeing his brother. He stood up and said “Oh geeze! Look who’s here!” At first, I was confused by Al’s reaction. I mean, after all, we were at Addie’s house. Why was he so surprised to see him? Didn’t he recognize Addie’s wife, Mary? I finally caught on, realizing that Al didn’t retain the information Mom gave him, and it didn’t even register where we were. He was not able to connect that it was very likely we’d see Addie at his own home.
My reaction to this just slipped out. I laughed out loud! I caught myself and scanned the faces present to see how others reacted to Al’s child-like surprise. I worried that my laughter would look disrespectful. Al never noticed. He was just so stunned and happy to see his brother. He was caught up in the moment.
Soon after, back at home, my parents were having dinner in a restaurant. Close by, a group of people were having dinner at a long table. One man strongly resembled Addie, and Al caught a glimpse. He said to Mom: “Hey, there’s Addie!” Mom said: “No AL, that’s not Addie.” Al insisted that it was, stood up, and headed to “Addie’s” table. Mom jumped up at the same time to warn this “Addie” person that Al thinks he’s his brother.
They came face to face with this gentleman, and as Al was extending his hand to shake his “brother’s” hand, Mom quickly said: “Al, who has Alzheimer’s, thinks you’re his brother Addie.” This man, who was not the least bit intimidated, assumed the role of Addie. They carried on a conversation of “How are you’s?” “What’s new?” and, “Things are great.” Al was thrilled that he got to see his “brother” again. And, Mom was so relieved that this man played along with the charade.
These incidents were undeniable realizations that Dad’s condition was deteriorating. He was so child-like at times, yet looking like and adult, like my father. I can remember watching him during similar situations, and thinking, “Is that really my father?!?!” I shared many of these stories with my friends as they happened. It helped to talk about them……not keep things a secret. Most of the time, we’d find the humor and giggle about the funny stories of my ever-changing father.