After finding several of dad’s handwritten notes in my keepsakes, I also ran across the notebook. On the front cover, written in large letters, with a black marker, it read, “important information.”
Written on the inside cover was all of the information dad’s memory would lose on a daily basis: his address, confirmation he owns the property he lived in, his kids’ names, ages and where they lived, his neighbors’ names, the name of his new dog we adopted from the animal shelter and to not let him out the front door because he really did belong in the house.
His daily schedule was laid out. Take the dog out every two hours. I would show up at noon with lunch and be back in time to fix dinner.
This running notebook stayed on the dining room table, every day, for two years. Most every day when I came through the front door, he’d be reading it. It seemed to have given him peace of mind and direction for the day. Before I started the notebook, as a way to deal with the dementia, while keeping him in his home, his demeanor was angry or sad, and sometimes both. Once he knew he could turn to the notebook if he became confused, our conversations began making more sense.
Even the TV drama he kept trying to weave into his life diminished, although he continued to believe criminals were lurking around every corner, although for the majority of the time, anytime he couldn’t find an item, whether it was duct tape or his wallet, I’d be the first to be accused of stealing it.
Some days he would get so mixed up between what’s really happening and the imaginary problems he’d been watching on TV, talking to me couldn’t wait until I got home so he’d call me at work to report things like, “the people who own this joint” said he could no longer have a dog in the house or he’d seen Hitler in the grocery store line. I would direct him to read his notebook and wait on the line while listening to him turn several pages. After realizing the year and that he was in his home, he’d hang up, usually without even saying goodbye.
The recent arrival of the hummingbirds reminded me of the time dad called and said I should “stop the presses” as he saw something that was extinct in his backyard.
Being the smart aleck he’d taught me to be, I said, “Hitler?” with a slight giggle.
“Hitler,” he repeated. “Have you lost your mind, that man’s been dead for years. I have hummingbirds in my backyard.”
If he’d said the hummingbirds all had a moustache, I may have headed that way with my camera.
Sandy Turner is a GateHouse Media columnist.