Thursday, September 5, 2013

Puzzles and Tai-chi

"Oh shit," Dad growls as he bangs the side of the table. I look up wide-eyed and scan the faces of my two young children. I am surprised, not because Dad chose to swear at the breakfast table in between bites of cereal and strawberries, but because I didn't realize he still had the ability to articulate his feelings so clearly.

Dad has Alzheimer's disease, and it's affected his ability to speak. When he was first diagnosed he struggled to find the appropriate words to express his feelings, but with a little work we could figure out what he wanted to say.

Today it's much more difficult to understand him. Sometimes a game of charades suffices. Dad flaps his arms in the air, motioning high or low, small or big. Desperate to bring an end to such a cruel game, we shout out ideas, hoping we can eke meaning out of the frail movement within his hands.

Other times Dad takes us out into the field. He leads us to the bathroom to show us we need to replace the toilet paper. He takes us to his office and points at the fuzzy lines on the television as he shoves the remote into our hands.

"Please," he may manage to say. We take the remote and turn on the cable box which somehow gets switched off on a weekly basis.

This morning there is no question about Dad's thoughts or feelings, though.

"Don't forget the van is coming to take you to the club," Mom reminds Dad as she bustles about the kitchen, her loyal Shi-Tzu trailing her. Mom calls the Adult Day Care Center a club to make it sound more pleasant. She wants Dad to have something to do, people to see, a life beyond his desk chair and the TV.

But Dad hates that place, not matter what we call it.

"Shit," he says again.

I study Dad's face. Even in his agitation he looks lost. His eyes have a blankness to them. They cannot veil his mental decline.

The van pulls into the driveway and Dad gets up from his seat. He brushes crumbs from his pants onto the floor and the dog eagerly runs to his feet to lap them up.

"Don," Mom scolds as she surveys Dad with the dog at his side, "if you ate over your plate you wouldn't make such a mess."

Dad ignores her and moves toward the door. He steps onto the bus for a day of puzzles, games, Tai-chi, and music.


  1. It's so sweet the way your mom calls it the club, so he'll want to go. is there much about your parents in your memoir?

  2. She tried so hard to make it sound attractive, but to no avail!

    My memoir covers our move to Cleveland and the joys and challenges of multi-generational living. It's definitely not a dull way to live!


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