Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"I don't remember..."

I'm joining Bridget Chumbley and Peter Pollock this week for their "One Word at a Time" Blog Carnival. Stop by Peter's blog and see all the great entries on this week's word:
Car keys. Dental appointments. Birthdays. All relatively unimportant when you look at remembering life. And love. And forgetting how to do both.

I clearly recall the first time my dad told me "I don't remember." Those three words told me so much. The cold reality of finally humbling himself to the ravages of Alzheimer's was so evident in his eyes.

He would have no more yesterdays to remember.

He was aware of his dilemma for a while. That vague, obtuse state of mind when you know you can't remember.

He knew he wasn't the meticulous, sharp-penciled accountant he had once been, though he'd spend hours scrawling random numbers in ledger books for no other reason than he could. There was a whisper of familiarity there. He struggled with pride and was able to fool a lot of people for a long time because he was so brilliant, and didn't want anyone else to know his debilitating secret. He did this for many years until one day he just up and said  "I don't remember." 

The white flag of surrender was flown.

That was so painful for me. It was easier when he'd call me for the umpteenth time and ask me how to microwave popcorn, like it was the first time he had ever asked. Or for him to refer to one of my boys as "what's-his-name" in a joking manner, pretending he really did know of whom he spoke. Or when he'd say "Hi There" and make you think he knew who you were.

Eventually everyone was named "There." Some knew his ruse and some didn't. His amiable disposition always took him far.

We had some fun with Dad's memory and lack thereof. After all, it was what it was. Coping wears a dark, humorous cloak sometimes.

He remembered where his stockbroker was and drove downtown to see him. What he didn't remember is that you don't stop your car in the traffic lane, shut it off, and just walk in the office.

He remembered that he didn't want anyone to eat his turkey sandwich, but didn't remember that he hid it in an old dresser down by his tool bench. Mom found it several years after he was gone.

He remembered how to drive, but he never remembered where he put the keys. That was to everyone's advantage. Eventually when we intentionally hid his keys, he gave up looking for them, thinking he was the one who had lost them. It was all in the name of love, safety, and the preservation of his dignity. We kept him busy studying the driver's manual so he could "get his license back."

"Tomorrow, Dad," I'd respond when he asked when he could take the driving test. Tomorrow never came. It never does when you don't know there was a yesterday. But that never dimmed his hope of looking forward to tomorrow. 

Dad struggled to recapture the past, to keep alive some memory, but neither was to be found. Our desire was to make his today pleasant, knowing that he would never again have another yesterday.

Today I remember him in gratitude and prayer. And I so appreciate all the yesterdays he gave me. Remembering them is a cherished gift.

Join us for the upcoming "One Word at a Time" Blog Carnivals here.

Tea today: Jasmine