My Mom needed a break and her best friend called me to help. She needed me to stay with my Dad so my Mom could go to a lodge in the middle of no where and learn to quilt with her. I called upon my sister and she couldn’t come with me so I was on my own. Sure, my brother would be 15 minutes away at his house if I needed help but he was always helping. He already took time out of his day that he didn’t always have because Dad listens to him. And Dad knows him.
I rearranged my schedule, I packed up, I drove two hours through a snow storm and walked in the door. I sat and talked with my brother for a while before he headed to his own home. That left me standing in my parents living room with my Dad. This was only for 30 hours. We could handle this, right? He attempted to tell me to change the channel to a certain show. He couldn’t remember what it was called and was struggling to find the name. “Pawn Stars?” I asked him. “Yes!” I know this because this is literally the only show he will watch. My Mom has 132 shows saved on the DVR.
I settle in knowing this is all we will do for the next 30 hours. He asks me if I have ever watched the show before. I tell him yes. He ends up asking me this 14 times in the course of those 30 hours.
I glance over at him and see what has changed. There is always a change and I just saw him 3 weeks ago. He is just shy of 54 but looks 70. Three years of Alzheimer’s is taking its toll. He looks like an old man and smells like one too. He hardly lets Mom bathe him but once a week. He refuses to eat anything but M&M’s and ham balls. The ham balls he picks apart, declares they taste like shit and dumps them in the trash. The M&M’s he carries in his pockets and then asks if someone stole them. There are trails all over the house of the colored candy. Trails around the kitchen, blue ones kicked under the cabinets, yellow and orange ones on the bathroom floor leading to the toilet, one of every color around his chair in the living room and on the side table.
I notice he eyes me funny out of the corner of his eyes every now and then. “How did you get picked to come sit with me?” He asks. He has two normal care providers during the week, he knows I am not one of them. “I wanted to come hang out with you Dad.” He has no idea who I am. I can see it on his face. They are selling a mini bike on Pawn Stars and he begins to tell me, in great detail, about a mini bike he had as a kid. He later asks me if I want a tour of the house.
He spends his day chasing M&M’s. I keep the fire going. He gets up, wanders in a circle, sits back down like he has worked a 15 hour shift. Pawn Stars ends and the DVR asks if we would like to delete the show. If I’m in the other room he yells “Oh, Shit! The TV broke. The show wasn’t over! It is asking to delete the TV.” I go out and tell him I can fix it and I start the next episode on the long list. Lord, please don’t let Direct TV go out on me.
I have a friend, that lives in town, come over that night with a bottle of wine. I’m beginning to feel like I have been cut off from civilization and need some company. So many hours of Pawn Stars and Pinterest and I’m losing it. My Dad eyes her suspiciously when she walks in the door. He used to love seeing her. Her and I met when we were 10 and lived two houses apart. For the first time you can tell he has no idea who she is. He takes a sip of my wine, declares it shit and goes back to Pawn Stars. Her kids are not phased by his current state and seem to be entertaining him while we catch up in the other room.
Later that night I go through the bedtime routine my Mom instructed me to do. His bed is located on one side of the living room and my Mom has been sleeping on the couch for months because he refuses to go to their bedroom. He sees too many dead people in there. After a lot of haggling and up and down I get him settled into bed and I settle myself on the couch. I turn off the lights and tell him goodnight. He answers back with a goodnight. I’m exhausted but I know I won’t sleep much.
10 seconds later….goodnight.
Me: Goodnight (I feel like John Boy should chime in now.)
30 seconds go by. Maybe he is asleep.
Me: Dad, close your eyes and go to sleep.
Three minutes more of goodnight and I hear him snoring. I wonder where his mind goes. It isn’t even here during the days as it is. I try and recall the last time my Dad even told me goodnight in my life. We just haven’t gotten along in so many years. I hardly sleep all night.
The morning comes and he eyes me funny again. He is in a shit mood and demands that show be turned on. We sit and I begin the countdown in my head for my Mom to come back. I have no idea how she does it. The cats kick around the M&M’s that are littering the floor and I realize the huge bag of them is almost empty. That could be a disaster. I bring in more firewood, clean up the kitchen and walk around collecting lost M&M’s. I put my stuff next to the door like it will make Mom come home sooner. I text my brother and sister that we are still alive.
12 episodes of Pawn Stars later my Mom happily comes back in the door looking a bit more refreshed. I was never so relieved to see her in my life. We made it. 30 hours together and I can now go back to my own world. He looks at my Mom like he thinks he might now who she is and she gives him a hug and kiss. She goes about the kitchen like normal and starts showing me what she bought and the pictures she took. This is her life now. A husband with Alzheimer’s who knows who she is at times but most of the times these days he doesn’t.
Later that night the two will get ready for bed and she tells me they have a Notebook moment. He grabs her face and says “Oh, there you are. I’ve been looking for you.” He calls her by name which happens few and far between now. She said that look comes over his face where for a few minutes he is fully there and she tells him goodnight.
2 thoughts on “30 Hours with my Dad”
Wow. So sad to see your dad going through this, and even more so, in a way, for your mom, to see him slipping away, and you as well. Such a terrible degenerative illness. I love the Notebook moment at the end, brought a tear to my eye. XO