I Know You
“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” William Shakespeare
“You know what I like about Whistler?” My dad asked last week when I suggested that he come back with me the next time I visit him in July.
“The mountains, the scenery?”
“Yes, they are very nice, but no.” His eyes are focused. He’s trying to retrieve a memory and articulate it. “ When I walk down the street, some people come right up to me. They say, You’re Stella’s Dad. It’s nice to be recognized. I’m somebody.”
It’s been thirty years since my dad retired. It’s been seven since my mom died. He had a purpose when he worked and when my mom was alive. He had men to supervise, jobs to get done and then when my mom got sick, he took care of her.
When I visit my dad my days are pretty full: taking him out for coffee, lunches and walks. We talk about his distant past life in Cairo, his long-gone relatives, and my mom. Sometimes he forgets who has died and who is still alive. And when I remind him, it’s as though he is hearing the news for the first time. The grief assaults him all over again, diminishes him.
Sometimes he forgets he has children. “I don’t have any children?” he asks. “Right?”
I tell him he’s talking to one of them. He laughs. I repeat this story nearly every time we talk because he laughs when I tell it, with all my embellishments and I like to hear him laugh. Then he reminds me he is 89.
The more contact he has with others, the more he remembers. And being recognized whether it’s in a coffee shop in Calgary or Athens or walking on the stroll in Whistler is an important aspect of his memory health. It’s the connection that he often doesn’t get living alone in the house he once shared with his wife and three children.
“The house is so quiet. Where are the kids? Will they be home soon?”
“I remind him I’m one of those kids and that I’m visiting. I live in Whistler.”
“Oh, I know that,” he says. “I haven’t completely lost it.”
And I’m heartened for a while until the phone rings after my return to Whistler this week. “When are you coming home,” he asks.
“I’ll visit you again in a few weeks,” I remind him. “Then you’ll come to visit me.”
“Oh, yes Whistler. People know me there.”
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