If Dad had any inkling of what he was wearing, he'd be mortified. His polyester pants, belt and neatly tucked in shirt have been replaced with a jogging suit.
Being in the construction business his whole life, I can almost guarantee he was the best-dressed person walking around the work site. It wasn't unusual for him to take two showers a day, with his hair perfectly cut and shaped, with a little help from some VO5. He would've been good looking even if he were covered in asphalt dust, but his obsession with being clean and neat, was a characteristic that was part of his charm.
When I used to help him get dressed for the day, it was a process, as he'd labor over trying to get the belt through the loops, or spend 15 minutes trying to figure out how to zip up or down his pants.
Eventually I ended up buying him different polyester pants, that just had an elastic waist, but since they were women's, and didn't fit quite right, he seemed uncomfortable, although he doesn't remember how to communicate that.
Since it's summer he's been wearing lightweight pajama bottoms and he seems fine with it although I bought him a sweatshirt and pants for the colder weather. I've been on a roll lately with my visits with him, and although it doesn't click that I'm his daughter, he knows I'm somebody, as his eyes light up when I walk in.
We had a good talk and I was impressed, after he'd asked me where I lived 20 times, the next time he answered it himself as he remembered I had said just 10 minutes from his new home.
I could see the wheels turning, as he was trying to put the pieces together, but they just wouldn't fit, so he changed the subject and began telling me about his new job as the "watcher" in this "hospital." I asked him if they paid him well, and his response sent me into a laughing fit when he blurted, "do fat babies fart?"
Our lively conversation attracted the attention of the other residents as they woke from their naps and wanted to add their two cents in. One of his new "girlfriends," a woman with a strong German accent, came strolling down the hall to see what was going on.
I've seen the two of them walking the halls together, when I come to visit, so I asked one of the nurses about their new friendship. She said the first time she introduced Dad to this woman he didn't have to think twice about what to say, when she informed him she was from Germany.
"I'm sorry I killed so many of your people," he said and the woman responded with, "that's OK, I forgive you."
Page 2 of 2 - Both Dad and this woman have a difficult time getting anything said, without it being jumbled, but I suppose when it comes to the memory of being a bomber pilot in the war, or living in Germany during bomb attacks, those fears and regrets are immune to dementia.
Maybe her forgiveness is what's given Dad his newfound alertness, or maybe he's just smitten with his new Fraulein – I thought I even smelled a hint of VO5 in his hair
Sandy Turner lives in the Kansas City area and writes this column for GateHouse Media.