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.—-
There he was, sitting quietly in the customer waiting area of the local Jiffy Lube. He wasn’t waiting for service though, just waiting for someone to discover he was missing, and then to find him.
It was a warm Spring weekend morning, and AL decided to venture out on his own again. He didn’t bother to change out of his PJ’s or wear shoes. He just made his way to the Jiffy Lube to entertain the customers and the young folks who worked there.
My mother had gone out early that morning to do her exercise routine at the YMCA. My brother Matthew was home, and both he and Al were sleeping when she left. This was a common practice by Mom. It had always worked beautifully…until this day. While Matthew slept, Dad woke up and headed out. It wasn’t until Mom returned home that she discovered that Dad was missing. There was no consideration of looking for him by herself…she just called 911.
As luck would have it, (or another case of divine intervention) the authorities received two calls simultaneously…..one from Mom, and one from a Jiffy Lube staff person. The staff person explained that this old guy, who was wearing pajamas, was just sitting in their waiting room, being very pleasant with staff and customers. They went on to explain that they didn’t know who he was, or why he was there, and the “old man” was unable to explain.
We believe that the staff on that shift were all fairly young, and weren’t really sure what to do. Al didn’t seem like a threat to them, and he was pleasantly responsive to all of the attention he was receiving, so it didn’t initially occur to them that someone might be frantically looking for him. He was there for an hour before they called the authorities.
The cops showed up and took Al under their care again. He returned home with an official escort by the Town’s finest in the magical police car for the last time. He never left home unattended again.
As Mom was giving me the scoop on this elopement, my initial reaction about the Jiffy Lube staff for allowing him to sit there for an hour without doing anything caused me to be angry. I remember saying to my mother that they were irresponsible and foolish to let someone who was wearing pajamas who couldn’t explain his purpose just sit there without involving the police, or at least an on-call manager. But Mom gently said that they were young and most likely somewhat amused by my father, and that it must not have initially occurred to them that immediate action should have been taken. That is always her way. Always giving people and situations the benefit of the doubt. I regrouped and dropped the accusations, if only to avoid adding stress and negativity to my mother’s already busy and unpredictable life with Al.