As I tried to come up with something to write about this week, all I could think of was Dad. It's so depressing to think of how it used to be and how much I miss our daily interactions and conversations.
During those years taking care of him, I could have written a column a day. We tackled dealing with dementia with humor and laughter as it seemed to be the best medicine for both of us. I would laugh at the stories he'd come up with, and even though he thought they were real, he would laugh because I was laughing. To him, it was no laughing matter, as he thought they were true.
Luckily we lived just minutes from my work so I could check on him every couple of hours. Depending on what he had been watching on TV, anyone from John Wayne to Hitler could have come by while I was gone.
We also had visits from the IRS, CIA and FBI.
It seemed as though any government agency with three initials was after him, and I'm not sure why he was so paranoid, except that not being able to remember what your past held could make a person wonder if they had strayed from the straight and narrow during their lifetime.
His wallet was always missing and even though it didn't hold anything but his driver's license and my phone number, he hid it and other items he thought were valuable. The only problem with this was he wouldn't remember hiding them, and some items were never found. On three different occasions I had to take him to buy new tennis shoes. I never did find any of them.
Sometimes the stories he'd come up with were so bizarre, I'd wonder what tricks his mind were playing on him. More than once he'd say he had spotted Hitler in the soup line and had to tell the authorities. I'm sure being a pilot in World War II had a lot to do with him thinking about soup lines and Hitler. As time progressed and the dementia stole more of him away, the stories about the war went from fond memories of the crew he flew with on so many missions to remorse.
My rough and tough Dad, who never shed a tear, cried over his guilt of dropping bombs and the people who died. No matter how much I'd console him, and remind him it was his job as part of the Army Air Corps, he couldn't cope with it. Eventually this part of his memory was wiped away as well.
I would listen intently to his stories, whether make believe or real, and am so glad I had those years of being his caretaker so I could learn about the Dad I never knew as a child.
Page 2 of 2 - I remember one day he called me at work to say I needed to stop the press because he had something in his backyard he was sure was front page news.
"Hitler?" I asked. "No, hummingbirds," he said but then had to add, "and they'll land on my finger." I miss that.