(So now, my dilemma is, should I write two blogs in a row?)
|Dad when he and my mom lived in|
Singapore, long before the onset of
Alzheimer's ... where he used
to eat lots of bananas.
Actually, one of my favorites started even before he lived with us. One time when he still lived with his wife in Alabama but was visiting with us, we took him to our family physician, who specialized in ailments afflicting the elderly. We had described to Dr. Sinden Dad's symptoms, and he said he would be willing to see him. On their first visit, among other things he gave him a memory test.
"Merl," he said, "I want you to remember the names of three unrelated objects I am going to tell you. In about five minutes I'm going to ask you to tell me back what they were. They are simple objects. Are you ready? Pencil. Car. Banana." He had my dad repeat these three names back to him. My dad wasn't terribly cooperative. At first, all he would say is, "This is a bunch of baloney." But finally he relented and agreed to try and remember those three items: Pencil. Car. Banana.
Less than five minutes later, Dr. Sinden suddenly returned to the subject. "Merl, five minutes ago I asked you to remember the names of three objects. Can you tell me what those were?"
My dad looked disgusted. "You asked me what? What the heck are you talking about?" Of course he couldn't remember a single object. All he could say was, "This is a bunch of baloney!"
Dr. Sinden told me he felt Dad was definitely suffering from memory-related dementia, most likely caused by Alzheimer's. "There's no way he should be driving," he warned me. This had been one of my major concerns. So at that point I began working with the state of Alabama to get his license revoked, for his own protection and for the protection of those around him. When it finally happened (almost a year later -- I discovered the State of Alabama doesn't do anything quickly), Dad was understandably angry. We told him it was doctor's orders. "That doctor of yours did this?" he demanded to know. "That guy was just a bunch of baloney."
Shortly after that, Dad came to live with us. And I knew I needed to take him to regular doctor visits, but I was reluctant to take him back to Dr. Sinden, whom Dad always called "That baloney doctor!" But I trusted Dr. Sinden and so I figured I'd give it a try. If it didn't work, perhaps he could refer us somewhere else.
So, for my dad's first appointment back with Dr. Sinden, I was filled with fear and trepidation. As we sat there and waited, Dad said to me, "I hope this guy isn't another baloney doctor of yours." I didn't respond. Then Dr. Sinden walked in. He greeted my dad warmly, "Hello, Merl! It's been awhile, hasn't it? How are you feeling?"
My Dad eyed Dr. Sinden suspiciously. But, as the appointment progressed, he began to feel more and more comfortable with him, and it soon became evident he didn't remember that Dr. Sinden was "that baloney doctor."
As we were getting ready to leave, Dr. Sinden jovially extended his hand to shake Dad's. But instead, Dad threw his arms around him and gave him a huge hug, with all the nurses watching curiously. He then lowered his voice conspiratorially and shared:
"You know, Don, when Larry first brought me here I was worried he was going to take me back to that baloney doctor. That guy was really a jerk! But, I'm so glad he decided to bring me to you instead!"
Dad visited Dr. Sinden a number of times after that, and always treated him like they were the best of friends. And every time he told him the story of "that baloney doctor" whom he detested so badly.
Okay, my second favorite story ... and this one didn't happen until after Dad took up residence in the adult family home nearby. For a person with Alzheimer's, any major transition (such as moving to a new place) is profoundly difficult. And even though it was a wonderful adult family home, with a half dozen very friendly occupants and very loving and kind staff, the first few months of adjustment were rough.
We visited several times each week, and even though they were feeding him very well, he often complained about the food. One evening he insisted, "Today they tried to force me to eat something that wasn't food! But it didn't work. I was able to hide it in my shoe."
"Not food?" we asked, intrigued. "What was it?"
"I have no idea," he said. "I've never seen one before. But there's no way I could eat it."
It was useless to try and get him to describe it to us, whatever it was. But suddenly, his eyes lit up. "Wait!" he said. "I still have it! I think it's still in my shoe ..."
So, he led us to his closet, where he started methodically going through all of his slippers and shoes. And he had quite a few. After awhile he was down to his last pair, feeling through each shoe, when suddenly he exclaimed, "Here it is!"
And he pulled out of his shoe ... a banana.
"Dad," I said as calmly as I could, trying not to laugh, "that's a banana! You certainly can eat those, they are indeed food. In fact, you've eaten thousands of them before. They're very tasty."
Dad looked at me like I was crazy. "Banana?!?" he exclaimed. "Never heard of it!"
"Try it," I said, "I think you'll like it."
So, Dad shrugged, then took a tentative nibble. But his teeth couldn't penetrate the peel.
"Well, actually," I confessed, realizing his problem, "you have to peel it first." And I showed him how to peel a banana, thinking back on all those hundreds of times I sat and ate a banana with my dad, I could never imagine I would be showing him how to peel one.
"Hmmm, this IS pretty good. I've never had one before," he assured me, as he munched happily away on the banana he had hidden in his shoe.
Well, I could write a whole book of funny things that happened with my dad. The time he asked me for a bicycle so he could ride back to Alabama. The time we were watching the National Geographic special about a polar bear trying to attack a herd of seals, unsuccessfully, and Dad suddenly sprang out of his chair, very upset and shouting, "This is a bunch of baloney!"
That was one word he never forgot -- baloney.
Well, I love and miss my dad ... and I hope where he is walking those beautiful hills of heaven right now, he too is remembering all these crazy "baloney" moments and laughing along with me!