Never Goodbye

Navigating the Journey through Dementia

During these past years, Dad’s memory shifted, faded and re-formed like designs of a kaleidoscope, and many different time periods came to view, often mistaken as the present. He had moments where he wanted to call his mom and dad to take him home. He had moments when he thought  he was my son Brad’s age. However, never, throughout all this time, did he mention my mom. It was as if that time frame was missing from the sequence of his life. Consequently, when I called him a few days ago and he told me he was going to have Milly (my mom) come and pick him up, I was rather surprised.

Dad and I had one of the longest phone conversations we have had in some time, nearly twenty minutes. I explained Mom passed away fifteen years ago, and he was shocked to hear the news, as if it had happened yesterday.

In 1992, Mom and Dad had gone to Las Vegas to try an alternative health clinic for her congenital heart disease and emphysema. My dad told me he was frustrated because my mom quit eating, and nutrition played a big part in the healing remedies at this clinic. Dad decided they may as well go home. So he and mom started their drive back from Las Vegas to Alabama. Mom was sleeping in the back seat, and when dad made a stop, he called her name. She never responded because she had passed away during the drive.

Dad asked me how she passed away, so I told him the story, just as he had told me. He repeated himself many times, verifying that this was Milly I was talking about and asking what had happened. At one point after repeating the story about Mom passing away, he asked me if I thought she knew. I told him yes, that I was sure she did. Then it dawned on him that Mom wasn’t going to be able to come pick him up at the nursing home. He was back to searching for a solution to the problem that had brought her to mind. I suggested that perhaps Brad could pay him a visit. He liked that idea.

A few days later when I called, the nurse warned me that Dad was in a bad mood. When I said, “Hi Dad,” he responded with “Where the hell are you? You were supposed to come and pick us up!” As I started to answer, my portable phone died. When I called back, I was told the line to the Alzheimer’s unit was busy. I could only imagine my dad on the other end of the phone, giving me a piece of his mind about not picking him up. I was in California. He was in Alabama. Needless to say, picking him up wasn’t on my schedule. But I guess sometimes, you’re the last one to know about the plans.