Dad started carving after he retired, and his work is just beautiful. I talked him out of few of his woodburnings, which I love, and his Christmas Santas have been gracing our mantle for many years now, their number increasing with each passing year.
He also has Alzheimers.
This fall I bravely asked him to make something just for me, and to think of me while he was creating it. He did, and I wish I could do it justice with this picture – it’s a stunning relief carving of a scene from my imagination, and I couldn’t love it more.
This whole series of pictures – the transformation as time goes by is lovely.
And Dad … I don’t know, but seeing these pictures of him, so focused – he’s working away, just for me, and that makes me cry. The carving itself, the time he spent, the inscription on the back – all of it. What a gift.
His diagnosis came in August, and although there were some signs and we knew he was predisposed, still. It threw me for a loop. It’s still mild – I’m so grateful for that – yet we are noticing more memory slips, which is hard. Dad and Mom talk about “Little Al” openly – such an unpredictable visitor!
Last week he forgot that he likes barbecue beef pizza from Papa Ray’s, and wondered what the meat was. He and Mom went to Papa Ray’s on their first date, well over 60 years ago now, and when Mom told me about this she said, “It’s really sad.”
Indeed. More than six decades of shared memories and now, some of them are only hers.
There have been some real bright spots though – getting some pain relief in his back and hips, and correcting a very low B12 level have brought him back to life. He says he feels better than he has in a long time. Irony.
Recently when I walked into their house, he greeted me with, “Well hello, Toots!” That’s been his name for me for as long as I can remember … but I hadn’t heard it in a good while. Another time, he grabbed me up for a second hug before he left, and he held onto me for a long time. Gifts.
I’m working at gleaning his growing-up memories, and it is fascinating to listen to him tell stories that I have never heard before, about people mostly long gone. Some I barely got the chance to know – his parents died when I was 5 – and others I knew but clearly didn’t know much about! Lots of family lore and childhood mischief are shared with me, and the best part is that I have audio recordings. They already feel priceless.
There’s no way for us to know how things will look as time goes by. Unlike my beautiful relief carving, there are no boundaries, no rules, no order, to Alzheimers – it will do what it does, in its time, and we cannot predict it. We can only respond. There is no use wasting energy worrying about what may or may not happen … it doesn’t add a single minute to tomorrow, it does not change any outcome, but it does waste time today. I can’t respond well today if I’m busy worrying about tomorrow.
Little Al does not define Dad, at all. His identity lies elsewhere – first and foremost as a child of God. He’s a faithful husband, for more than 62 years now. He’s a loving father to me and my brothers. He’s a grandpa and great grandpa many times over, and I’ve watched him pour loads of love into every single one of the babies. He’s an artist. He’s an amateur comedian – we have so many “Dad-isms” that make us laugh. He is generous and warm and kind and so well-loved by family and friends. THESE are the things that define him, and I’m proud to call him my father.