In his mind it was a national event and as much preparation would go into their arrival as most folks do for visiting family members. Hummingbirds will be arriving next week and it not only reminded me of dad’s obsession with these nectar loving birds but also to get my feeder ready.
I spent quality time helping dad prepare for the arrival of both martins and hummingbirds washing the birdbaths, filling the feeders and marking off the days until they’d arrive. I anxiously waited with him and hoped they would find his house on their way through town, otherwise I was afraid he’d end up drinking his red nectar concoction the hummingbirds seemed to love.
Day to day life for dad during the years he battled dementia was best when it was ordinary. For a remarkable amount of years he was able to take good care of himself, and his dog, but when something broke his routine, the confusion threw his world into a whirlwind and it would be as if he forgot everything he once knew to be true.
It could be a simple phone call from a solicitor saying they were from the IRS and he owed them money to a news station reporting a murder. If his mind wasn’t occupied with his normal routine duties he could easily be pulled into a scary world of thinking someone or something was after him. We prepared for the hummingbirds every day for months in advance because it kept him busy and more importantly happy.
Dad had an ongoing battle with the squirrels who were obsessed with hanging and eating off the bird feeders. After I took his BB gun away because he was shooting more than just the squirrels, the rodents went crazy over the various feeders throughout his backyard. It was amazing how dad could remember the trouble the squirrels had caused in any given day but would forget how to tell time, the month and even the season.
Sometimes during these mundane tasks his mind would drift to another time or a different place and our conversations would turn from present day to past and more times than not he would forget we had just accomplished the task he was asking me to do again. Once, while we were filling up the hummingbird feeder, even though it was already full, he looked me square in the eyes and asked, “When are you going to put me in a nursing home?” It broke my heart when the day came I had to break my promise to him not to take him out of his home. When he cut the power line with his tree trimmers, it made me the decision for me, for his own safety.
My hummingbird feeders are up. I count on the tiny birds to show up every year, as they remind me of dad and our bird watching time together.
We should all take heed from the hummingbird – some days are just a humdinger so take a sip of your sweet memories.
Sandy Turner is a GateHouse Media columnist.