Dementia doesn't follow any rhyme or reason. There's no such thing as a guarantee and high expectations are no better than the promise of buying ocean-front property in Arizona.
I was excited to give a box of heavily iced cookies and a Pepsi. He's been so alert lately, I was looking forward to a good visit. He's even seemed to recognize me, although when asked, he still says he doesn't have a clue.
I found him like I have so many times before. Slumped over in a chair, head hanging down, hands clasped in front of him, staring at the floor and unresponsive. I pulled him up and made him walk into a sitting room where we could be by ourselves. It was a slow go, with his eyes hazed over as if he were sleepwalking.
His hair was going every which way and it looked like half of his lunch landed on his shirt instead of his mouth. It wasn't a good day and no matter how much I prompted him, he wasn't going to say or do anything.
I sat the box of cookies and Pepsi in front of him. I handed him a card and he just stared at it. Even though I've seen this behavior so many times before, for so many years, the urge is still there, to cry over my Dad, who's in there somewhere, but won't come out.
I opened the card, "from Daddy's Little Girl," and read the words inside as he became infactuated with crumbs scattered on the floor. I finally had to sweep them under the couch so he would at least look up, instead of down.
At this point I wasn't even sure he was going to be able to hold a cookie, much less get it to his mouth. When all else fails, load 'em up with sugar. Dad's sweet tooth is nothing to be reckoned with. When I took care of him at home, he could go through a box of cookies in one sitting, easy.
I put a cookie in his hand and he didn't waste any time. He reached for the Pepsi, took a couple gulps and then went for another cookie. I was creating a sugar high, but at least this was progress to bring him out of this stupor.
After four cookies, the floor full of crumbs and pink icing all over his hands and face, he patted my leg and said thank you. My first instinct was to put up the cookies up so I wouldn't make him sick but just as I started to close the lid he asked for one more.
Six cookies later and, after cleaning him up, he patted my leg again and said, "you're a good girl."
Page 2 of 2 - I'm not sure he knows I'm his girl, and I'm pretty sure he'd say that to anyone who gives him his favorite snacks, but I'll take it. It's kind of like loading your grandchildren up with sugar and then sending them home, since it's no skin off your back whether or not they sleep that night.
Sweet dreams, Dad.
Sandy Turner lives in the Kansas City area and writes this column for GateHouse Media.