Finding Clarity in the Fog

Dad and I sat in my parents’ living room, with not much to talk about.  Usually when I visited, Mom and I carried the conversation, but today Mom was at church.  It would be just me and Dad for over an hour.

Dad’s drift into the shifting fog of Alzheimer’s had left him mostly functional, but with enough confusion that Mom didn’t like to leave him at home alone.  To enable her to leave the house to attend church each Sunday, I volunteered to keep Dad company.  It reminded me of babysitting, so I called it “Daddy-sitting.”

On the first Sunday I brought a book with me to read, but Dad was alert and ready for company.  He was not a reader and had no hobbies to keep him occupied during my visit.  My parents didn’t have a television anymore, so I couldn’t even resort to that old babysitting standby!

We would have to talk, but about what?  Dad no longer read newspapers nor followed current events.  He seldom went anywhere, and he wouldn’t remember even if he had.  He couldn’t recall if any other family members had visited recently.  That left the weather, a topic we exhausted within the first few minutes of each visit.

One Sunday, Dad mentioned something that happened when he was a child.  He was able to recall it with vivid detail.  While recent events seemed to slip through his mind like sand from an hourglass, his early memories were set in concrete.

Now we had a bottomless well of conversation to draw from.  I only had to mention Dad’s two siblings, both of whom had passed away years earlier, and Dad would recall some of the hijinks he and his brother got up to when they were young (many of these involved pestering their older sister.)

I had always thought of my Dad as being reserved and, well, a bit boring.  But he had a wealth of stories to tell, and, with some encouragement, he was pleased to share them.

Sunday after Sunday, I learned more about my Dad and his life before he became a husband and father.  He told me of the foul-smelling coal furnace his family had in my grandparent’s basement, and the chickens that scratched around their backyard.  He related the many road trips he and his brother had taken, sometimes with their respective girlfriends of the moment.

Some stories he told over and over, forgetting he had already told me.  I heard about one epic tale—an overnight drive he and a friend took to Montreal to visit attractive twin sisters they had met on another adventure—so many times, I could recite it from memory.

Unfiltered, Dad no longer had to worry about setting a good example for his adult children.  He and I laughed over him scaling a fence to get into the local fall fair without paying admission, and sneaking into movies with second-hand ticket stubs.  It turns out my Dad wasn’t boring—he was mischievous and fun, and more like me than I ever suspected.  (Although I never hopped the fence at the fall fair—I snuck through the gate.)

During all those Sundays I never did get any reading done.  But I learned more about my Dad during a year of Daddy-sitting than I had in the previous forty years.  And, Sunday after Sunday, we never ran out of things to talk about.

%d bloggers like this: