“Life is 10 percent what you make it, and 90 percent how you take it.” Irvine Berlin

Before he goes to bed, we mull over the day’s events. I wish him a good night in his language.Kalinychta. I feel his smile. There is recognition in that smile. With a few hints, he has remembered the day’s events. I am reassured.

In the morning, I wake him with a kalimera and we set about planning his day. After our discussion, where I’ve answered many of his questions more than once, he says, now I know. But over the course of the day, he will ask me again and again, what day is it, what am I supposed to do today, what do I need to buy?

Yet, ask him about some current affair, the elections across the border or the battles in the Middle East, for example, and he will give you a history lesson, tell you how the past has shaped our present and exactly what he thinks about it all. Or walk with him into his pharmacy where his pharmacist is a Coptic from Egypt and listen to the conversation he engages in in Arabic. Other customers stare and I know what they are thinking, how does this little old European man speak Arabic so confidently.

I wonder about it myself. In fact, he speaks five languages and when he is in one he doesn’t mix in words from another. He is fluent in each.

I’m left with more questions. How can he be so proficient and razor sharp in these things? And why can’t he remember if he ate or took his medicine? Why can’t he remember what day it is? I tease him that one day he will forget me. He tells me he will never forgot me. A few minutes later he will quip, who are you again?

His sense of humour like his language skills and interest in what is going in the world remains perfectly intact.

I wish I had answers to his waning memory.

It can be frustrating to be asked the same question over and over again within the span of a few minutes. But then I wonder what it must feel like for him to lose these bits and pieces of what he once took for granted.

Phone calls from me, four or five a day, help my father remember. And they uplift me. Don’t get me wrong, I know calls are a pathetic replacement for actually being there with him. Still, they comfort me just like that good night at the end of each day. He’s safe. All is well for another day.

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