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.—-
A small army of people gathered to help my friend, Jill move. Al and I showed up that morning ready and willing to help. I introduced him to everyone, but when I introduced him to one of the helpers named Stephanie, his response surprised me. Al’s language was affected by his dementia, so there were never any in-depth conversations going on between us. So, at the moment of introduction when Al and Stephanie were facing each other, I said “Al, this is Stephanie.” He responded by smiling and extending his right hand to shake hers, and said “Hey Steph!” I was shocked by his appropriate response. In fact, if people who didn’t know him witnessed this encounter, they would have never known that he had dementia. I do think her beauty caught his eye, and a natural and appropriate response followed.
As usual, AL was wearing a hat that day…a baseball cap. So, to get down to business and to promote an upbeat atmosphere in light of this enormous job, I turned Al’s cap backwards. Jill saw this and immediately said to him “Hey…it’s Eminem!”. Jill and I laughed out loud, and Al joined in. We were completely sure that he didn’t know who Eminem was, but as was true of Al’s behavior in any situation, he took on the mood around him. So, the group spent the day calling him Eminem, and he laughed every time someone addressed him that way.
This moving day was in June, 2002. I had been taking Dad every weekend for almost 2 years. I knew him very well by then, and knew that he would be happy doing anything, as long as he was on-the-go.
Jill’s apartment was on the 3rd floor, with no elevator. We worked for several hours, traveling 2 flights of stairs. The group caught on early that Al was extremely helpful in carrying small and light boxes and objects. Everyone pitched in by giving Al something to carry each time he reappeared in the apartment. He worked non-stop, up and down, up and down. I was so impressed with his willingness to be involved.
By the end of the day, we were both exhausted. Al napped on the way home. I brought him in the house, reported to Mom why he was so tired, and headed home myself. On the way home, I thought about how easy he was to be with, and how willing he was to do anything with me. It not only made these outings with him doable, but also extremely enjoyable. It crossed my mind about how lucky I was. I was having a relationship with my father that was in no way predictable, and was so very sweet. It was a special era for both of us.
PS: For those who don’t know who Eminem is…he is a rapper and Hip Hop artist.
The ONLY connection with Al was his hat!