December, 2004

Maude (from the newsgroup) wrote "...How's your Dad doing?  My thoughts are with you."

We've been coaxing him out to dinner with us for the last few weekends--which, in itself, is a minor miracle. He has no real appetite, but it's good to get him out to socialize, and we manage to con him into eating more than he otherwise would. He mostly stays in his room at the group home, snoozing and petting the cat. Last weekend we had him over here. I cooked, and we had a couple of our favorite neighbors in. They're very nice younger women, who were fascinated by his careers as a paratrooper, disc jockey, radio announcer, saxophone player and vocalist with a big band, boxer, author of children's books, CIA agent and all-around multi-faceted globe-trotting bon vivant. (None of that is delusional fabrication; he's done...well, damn near everything.) He charmed them, and we listened to tapes of his old band. Mostly his conversation was appropriate and he was pretty focused and seemed to have energy and interest. He wasn't too confused at all.

Tonight we went to a Vietnamese restaurant and he spent most of the time asking why the hell they had Christmas lights on their windows and whether or not I'd noticed the extremely beautiful Vietnamese woman at the next table. About 308 times between the appetizers and the dessert and coffee I had to say "Because it's almost Christmas, Pop" and "Yes; she's very lovely. Eat your soup, please." He spent perhaps 3 minutes peeling the paper wrapper off a drinking straw and stared intently at other people in the restaurant. He tasted my iced coffee and made terrible, exaggerated faces as though it had made him ill, or drunk. He slipped back and forth from being very silly to being confused and tired.

He wears a woolen beret, and as we were putting on our coats and hats and gloves, preparing to leave the restaurant, he was fiddling with the little cloth tag inside the beret's brim, indicating the size.

"Do you know what the 'S' on this stands for?" he asked.
My sister said "Doesn't it mean 'Small', Pop?"
"No..." he replied, grinning like a mischievous kid.
"IT STANDS FOR 'SHIT' ! " -- this latter blurted out in his resonant, booming, 18-ball, announcer's voice...

On the way home (Marsha drove and I sat in the back seat, to give him room up front) the topics of conversation were:
1. Marsha's wonderful driving skills
2. How nice her car was
3. How well she seemed to know her way around
4. How beautiful the buildings were that we were passing
5. Whether or not Marsha was married, and to whom and for how long.
(Every time this was answered, he responded with "I didn't know that!")
6. Then this was followed by "Why didn't your husband come along with us in
the car?" ...at which point I'd have to sit forward and remind him I was there. Very surreal.

We took him back to the group home, and he didn't want to go to his room. We managed to get him downstairs, and we sat on the bed with him for a while. JoJo the cat came up and crawled inside Marsha's jacket and purred, pushing his head deep into her sleeve. Pop talked about what a good friend the cat was, and how much he liked him. As we kissed him goodbye and started to leave, he asked "Are you just going to leave me here, now?" He looked so small and frightened and sad-- like a kid on his first day of school.

It makes for an exhausting time together, but as it's getting to the end of our allotted number of days together (his doctor says he's probably got "...a case of 'the Dwindles'-- meaning he's most likely winding down and losing interest in things...")  it's time I'll savor and replay for the rest of my life. Precious hours.

Thanks, Maude. I've been reluctant to spend a lot of time here talking about this and diverting attention from the business at hand. One bites the bullet, except for those few occasions when I just hurt too much to contain it. It's good to know someone is holding us in their thoughts.

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