Never Goodbye

Navigating the Journey through Dementia

Dad and Mom retired in 1978 and began the search for their “Golden Pond”. They found a number of acres in Northern Alabama–a beautiful tract of land with a 25-acre lake set back from the main road in isolated woods. They fulfilled their dream by building what their neighbor Brenda calls their “Frank Lloyd Wright house”. My mom drew up the blueprints, falling back on her architecture classes from college years ago. My dad sawed down trees and built the road with his newly purchased tractor. It was truly a creative project that provided them with fulfilling tasks and happy moments that lasted years. They hauled rocks and built an enormous fireplace, stone walls, all to their very own original design.

When the architect told them they couldn’t build the vaulted ceiling the way they wanted, my dad asked why not. The architect told them because he’d never done it before. My dad would hear none of that and said, “Just because you haven’t done it, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.” Mom and Dad got their vaulted cedar ceiling with large wooden beams. The beams slant down ending in tall picture windows that look out onto the lake. Peeking through the trees, the house sits perched on an enormous outcrop of rock. They decided a lawn would only detract from the beauty of their forest surroundings and settled on nestling in the woods with a beautiful view.

When Mom passed away fourteen years ago, their house still sat alone overlooking the lake, isolated and surrounded by acres and acres of forest.

Sensing my dad’s inevitable loneliness, I arranged staggered vacations instead of a joint one. My daughter visited dad first, then I visited, and the last to visit was my son Brad, who eventually ended up settling down in Fort Payne. When Brad visited, my dad offered to send Brad to a nearby college, and Brad in turn lived with him. His living with my dad transformed the lonely existence on the lake into a companionship and camaraderie that filled my dad’s emptiness and brought him back to life.

However, young adults grow up, and the time came for Brad to move on. He settled down and created his own family in Fort Payne. At this point, Dad began to sell some lots and slowly a few neighbors built houses around him, first Brenda and Jim, then LeDon and Amber, and afterward Tom. But knowing that selling lots meant building houses, dad never sold lots that would spoil his beautiful view of the lake and forest.