Adventures in Alzheimer’s – remembering daddy edition

by Julie Frayn on July 7, 2015 in  Adventures in Alzheimer's,Mama Bird

One Saturday in April, I had a rather nice visit with Mom. I delivered her meds and she started to reminisce about Daddy. This past March 27 was the 20th anniversary of his death. He died young, just 61, from a disease that took everything from him. A disease I carry with me. A disease I might have passed along to my kids.

But I digress.

Daddy and Me, circa 1985

Daddy and Me, circa 1985

The lovely recollections of his handsome face and kindnesses, of how they met on a train in a prairie flood, him in his RCMP red serge, her an employee of the railway, came pouring out. The story is very familiar. I’ve heard it more times than I can count. A few details are beginning to change, but overall, it’s pretty much the same as always.

Then her memories of him took a turn. She focused on one instance when she came home from work when we were all small kids and discovered Daddy about to give us kids the belt, right in her house, all three of us bent over the bed with our butts in the air.

Mom didn’t work when we were young. We didn’t live in Calgary when we were the ages she thought we were. And I have no recollection of this incident. She’s mentioned it before, since Alzheimer’s took hold, but today it was an obsession, asking repeatedly what we had done to deserve his wrath.

“I don’t remember.”

“Why was he going to give you all the belt? Why won’t you tell me?”

“I don’t remember…”

“Do your brother and sister remember? Will they tell me?”

“You’d have to ask them, Mom.”

It went on for almost an hour. I asked why it mattered. Why, in 43 good years together, was she focusing on one bad incident? An incident I’m not sure even happened?

Aside – don’t get me wrong. Dad was no saint. My systir does recall the incident Mom was obsessing over. And I remember being very upset twice in my life, and both times I got hell from him. Once he hit me with his belt across my clothed ass. The other I just got a good shouting at. Of course there’s the time when I was 16 and I showed him how I’d learned to drive (my systir took me out in her Honda Civic made out of – swear to pete – crushed Coke cans). At the end of our street, I hit the brakes of Mom’s ‘76ish Charger (a damn sight more sensitive than the Honda’s brakes) and nearly sent him through the windshield. His face turned the colour of ripe watermelon flesh. He drove the Charger home. I walked. And I didn’t get my license until I was 27… Keep in mind, Dad was an orphan in the depression, mistreated, beaten, not adopted until 13. Perfect? Nope. But all things considered, I think he did a damn fine job as Dad.


King KameHAHA

Back to the story. I told Mom about the two memories of Daddy that I hold most dear. Of summer Saturdays when I was a teenager and he and I would be first out of bed. We’d turn an entire loaf of raisin bread into buttered toast, sit out on the front step and eat every piece until it was late enough (but still stinking early) that he could wake the neighbourhood with the lawn mower and not break any bylaws.

The other memory is when we were in Hawaii for Christmas, 1978. I was 15. He strutted around the condo in his tighty-whities (something he did at home too. And come to think of it, they were blue). He draped a dish towel over his head and stuck a hibiscus flower in front of the towel. You’ve heard of King Kamehameha? We called Daddy King Kamehaha. Hahahahaaa…

Good times indeed.

By the end of the visit, I had Mom laughing about the King rather than demonizing the memories that remain of her beloved husband and soul mate. Until next visit. When her recollections of amputations took a horror-story twist.

But that’s another edition.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Smith July 7, 2015 at 1:27 pm

I’m glad you managed to take her mind away from the incident which was bothering her. Found this quite a disturbing post for some reason.


Julie Frayn July 10, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Sometimes it’s easy to distract her. Other times… impossible. Sorry you found it disturbing. I wonder why?

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