For Dad's 86th birthday we celebrated over some of his favorite junk food items, blueberry doughnuts and chocolate milk. The only thing that could distract him from the sweets was his birthday card I had given him.
Just to make sure he knew what role I played in his life, I purchased a card with the word D-A-D plastered on the front in three-dimensional glittered letters. Inside I simply wrote, "I love you, from your daughter Sandy."
Eventually I put the card on his dresser hoping it's still there on my next visit, as it seemed to do the trick. When the staff jokingly asked who I was this time, since we never know who he may think I am, he looked at the card, looked at me and proudly said, "my daughter."
The staff also let me in on a little secret. Apparently a new resident has made her claim on him and the couple has become inseparable. I wasn't sure how to feel about this, that is, until I met her.
Over the next hour the three of us sat at the dining room table, eating blueberry doughnuts, laughing and talking. She not only made me feel better about Dad's new living arrangement, but she brightened my visit with her smiles and affection for him.
Since Dad's speaking abilities have been going downhill, as he completely forgets which words go together or how to verbalize what he's thinking, I started to worry something else may be wrong, besides having dementia, until I met Dad's friend.
I'm not sure how their conversations go when they're alone, but apparently they have an understanding. and that's all that really matters.
When she first sat down at the table, she gave me the "evil eye" and promptly asked what I was doing there. I told her I was his daughter and was here to celebrate his birthday. She immediately began singing "Happy Birthday" to him, forgetting the last two lines but humming in place of the words.
How cute, I thought, as I watched Dad's face light up. Just five minutes later the woman stopped mid-sentence and asked me who I was. I told her the same as before and so the happy birthday song began again. This went on three more times until finally I took the card to his room.
Just before I left she asked one more time who I was. I told her and this time she simply said, "good because I love this man."
Me too, I said.
When the couple started an intense discussion why dad had hair on his legs but she didn't, I figured it was my cue to leave. My birthday wish for Dad is complete, as he's found a love, besides blueberry doughnuts.
Page 2 of 2 - Thank goodness for the woman who sings happy birthday.
Sandy Turner lives in the Kansas City area and writes this column for GateHouse Media.