It’s only been two weeks. He’ll remember me, right? I see him more often than anyone else--well, not his caregivers, but other then them, I definitely see him the most. He’ll remember. I’m a good daughter. He’ll remember. When I arrive to find him hanging up his shirt, he looks at me and says nothing. His eyes are searching mine, darting back and forth. After a moment he says, quietly, “Hi.”
I don’t think he remembers.
While he gets ready, I straighten his closet, I re-fold his sweaters, I collect his junk mail, I throw away a pile of rubber bands he has collected on his dresser, I think for a moment maybe I shouldn't, I chat with his caregivers, I head to Target for something they tell me he needs. I try to think of other things I can do, and instead sit down for a cup of coffee.
I wonder what the caregivers think of me.
I return to find Dad dressed, but part of his clothes are inside out. His face is shaved sporadically. His hair is noticeably thinner than the last time I saw him. When he bends over to tie his shoes, I can’t stop looking at the top of his head. I want to reach out and touch it, but I don’t. Instead, I offer to help him shave the stubborn hairs he couldn’t get rid of. He agrees, and I’m struck by how accommodating he is. He just doesn’t mind. It occurs to me he’s losing his mind, but before he does, he gets to lose his car, his home, his freedom to just go outside and take a walk. I’m the one who gets to tell him those things are gone. Yet, he smiles and agrees to whatever I suggest. He trusts me.
I want to run out of the room, cry, and punch someone really hard.
He lifts his head, juts out his neck and appropriately scrunches his face while I shave it. I wonder if the kind of sweetness I find in this moment is what a mother feels when helping her child. I praise him, joke with him about the stubborn hairs that have taken on a life of their own, and ask him to help me in ways I know he’ll succeed.
I want a million more moments like this and try to make it last as long as possible.
A caregiver comes into his room to ask if he wants to join in a game of bingo. He has somewhere to go, he explains, and he’ll be back later. He’s going out with his daughter. I suggest we might go to Bob Evans. He repeats it, proudly, to the caretaker. “We’re going to Bob Evans. “
All I can think is that he called me five days ago and begged me to help him move away from this place.
I tell him I have a special surprise, and I can’t wait to show it to him. He smiles and says, “Did you get a car?” He knew, and I didn’t even have to tell him. He is still here, but it only lasts a moment. We go across the street for dinner and he reads the menu, but doesn’t remember what the words mean. He asks me what meatloaf is, and he wonders aloud what chicken fried steak tastes like. He is talkative, and explains to me me over and over again that his dinner has "big pieces of chicken." I know if I ask him if he's ready to go, that's when he'll ask me questions, thinking of ways to have dinner last longer.
I ask him if he's ready to go.
We drive back to his home at the memory care neighborhood, and he stands by his seat, waiting to hug me. I’m walking out, and I hear him talking. “That’s my daughter. She just got a new car.” I turn around in time to see one of his neighbors smiling and nodding, listening to him. I walk out the door and head out to the car. I head home, where I know my husband will be waiting to hear which one of the two days this was.
It was a good day.