Never Goodbye

Navigating the Journey through Dementia

Dad’s “re-activation” plan moved onto the next phase, and he began bugging me about getting the trucks fixed. The truck he bashed up was a 1986 Ford Ranger. His other truck, a 1987 Ford, had not run in awhile.

My son Brad came over and got the Ranger out of the tree. He drove it back to the house, and there it sat in the driveway with its bumper and radiator crushed and shaped into an almost perfect “V.”

After checking and testing various possible causes, Brad discovered the 1987 Ford wouldn’t start because it wasn’t in “park”. The column shifter did not indicate the correct gear anymore, so you never knew which gear you were in.

Upon hearing that, I thanked our lucky stars Dad had never been able to start the truck. Oh, and he had tried. I marveled at the analogy between the truck’s column shifter and my dad’s mind. Both were unpredictable. You never knew which gear would set them moving and in what direction.

Repairing both trucks turned into Dad’s next pet project. By this time, I had to face the fact that in spite of having crashed into the tree, Dad still had big plans for driving.

Although dad’s driving days were over, getting a stubborn, fiercely independent 88-year old man to see he should not be driving was a daunting task. Mentioning his poor memory problems and lengthened reaction time only fueled his stubborn resolve. My new tack to convince him not to drive had back-fired.

I told him his friend Harry Partridge didn’t drive anymore. His driver’s license had been revoked, and his kids had taken the keys away from him. The mention of Harry provided the opening Dad was looking for, and he cleverly pointed out that Harry was 101 years old while he was merely 88 years old. Then Dad launched into a lengthy digression on the subject of Harry, leading us far off the track, away from the subject of driving. While his memory may not have served him, his wily, divertive tactics still did.

Taking another approach, I shifted the topic back to trucks. If I couldn’t get him to quit driving the trucks, perhaps I could eliminate trucks to drive. I told him it was like pouring money down the drain to fix trucks we didn’t need anymore. He only used the one truck to dump trash in the landfill. We could start using a garbage disposal service, like his other neighbors, and get rid of the trash eyesore in the woods. He kept  insisting it was very handy to have a truck. I kept asking what else he would use it for, and he kept saying it was handy for things. A circular conversation ensued, resulting in a stalemate. Not even appealing to his frugal nature would budge him from his position. At this point I called in reinforcements.

When Dad went for his walk, I phoned Brad. I asked him if he could please return the other leaf blower and see if Dad had ruined the leaf blower full of anti-freeze. I also solicited his opinion about Dad’s driving. My inquiry unleashed Brad’s stored up protest which came gushing forth. Climbing onto his soapbox, Brad assured me there was no way Gramps should be driving;. He was a veritable hazard on the road to man and beast. Ah ha! An ally for my camp! A fighter in my corner! As the saying goes, “I love it when a plan comes together.” And as while we talked, we stamped the seal on dad’s driving fate.

Brad came over, and between the two of us. we convinced Dad that a garbage disposal service was better than an unsightly landfill. Brad nailed Dad down on the other handy truck uses–hauling brush and filling potholes. After building and paving the road to the house, those uses had disappeared. Dad relented, and in his moment of agreement I rushed him down to sign up and pay for the garbage disposal service.

Brad helped me figure out how to sell the trucks. I hid the vehicle keys. At last the turmoil was laid to rest. Life settled down and complacency gradually filtered into the coming days. I resumed my home-based business endeavors, and Dad returned benignly to his three routines of “finding out about the world” (watching TV), reading his stack of direct mail, and taking several, sometimes as many as three walks a day.