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Is Ryan living with Bobbin? Uhh! I don’t approve of that.

June 13, 2012

Yesterday Daddy asked Mother, “Is Ryan living with Bobbin?”

“Yes, Robert.”

“Uhh! I don’t approve of that.”

Apparently Daddy occasionally inquires about whether Ryan and I are cohabitating. As I mentioned in my “Sex is out of the question” post, I assumed the stress surrounding Daddy’s diagnosis prevented him from bemoaning my decision to shack up after engagement yet prior to marriage. Now I wonder if Daddy thought I leased a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house on my own, as if my salary could support that.

“Well, y’all are older,” Mother commented with surprising understanding.

Just yesterday my psychotherapist pointed out that many doors to my childhood have closed. Daddy’s devastating diagnosis remains the top robber of any naivete I once possessed regarding loss; after all, until March I confidently estimated that both my parents would live at least through their 80s. Straggling far behind is the recent passing of my elderly cat Lily, who ran away to die in dignity at age 17. I especially recall one Saturday afternoon in the mid ’90s when I whipped back and forth on the backyard swing set while Daddy paced past the log pile and Lily scratched around in the leaves.

“Look Daddy, Lily’s pooping beside the tea olive tree! She’s so cute!” I yelled while pumping the swing to dangerous heights.

“Yup. Phoo!,” he said, spitting tobacco. “That’s a shitty kitty.”

We adopted Lily and her sister Patch when I was 10, and I always felt like they symbolized Timber and me. As my best friend Leslie so eloquently put it, when your childhood animals die, a piece of your history vanishes with them.

Visiting home feels different now. Lily and Patch no longer lounge on chair arms while the family watches TV. Cat hair doesn’t cling to my pants. I creepily observe Daddy while he chews his cornbread and pinto beans. I squeeze his hand when we make car trips to town that once were mundane. When we walk the dogs, I stare at the back of his head – a distinctly shaped physical trait bequeathed to Timber. I try to squeeze meaning from everything.

The other day my parents went to Rome with their friend Peggy, one of the few people in my hometown who has reached out since Daddy’s diagnosis.

“We went to Lavender Mountain. The place with the plants. The whatchyamacallit,” Daddy struggled on the phone.

“The nursery.”

I silently fretted that Daddy’s language capacity was eroding as we spoke. I’ve read that in the early stages of the disease, AD sufferers often replace forgotten words with “whatchyamacallit” and “thingamajig.” I wonder if my resulting nausea was founded. I mean, my vocabulary slips sometimes.

Yesterday Mother, Daddy and Peggy watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and ate lunch at the Cock-eyed Spaniel*, a restaurant Daddy voluntarily chose over the Varsity to my amazement.

“How was it?” I asked Daddy.

“It was great. There’s a good-lookin’ woman workin’ in there.”

“What was so attractive about her?”

“Everythang.”

I guess my biggest challenge is adjusting to the decreased complexity of Daddy’s and my conversations. His once opinionated and combative nature continues to decline. He concurs with whatever movie Mother suggests they see whereas he once refused to go to the theater at all. I used to call the house and ask, “Can I speak with Mother?”

“Can you or may you?” he corrected my courtesy.

“Ugh. May I…”

I guess I’m trained now to always say “may” or possibly get away with uttering “can.”

Perhaps Daddy’s more agreeable attitude explains why I didn’t get a lecture upon moving in with Ryan. Or maybe Daddy realizes I’m not a child anymore. Either way, I miss those lectures.

*Name has been changed.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael Jewett permalink
    June 13, 2012 4:20 pm

    I don’t mean to be insulting toward your family in any way, by any means, but this sort of belief system has a lot to do with why I moved away from the south (mind you, southern Florida is so culturally diverse, I don’t consider it a part of the “south”). I’m glad things are working out for you though, in their own way.

  2. June 13, 2012 4:32 pm

    Hey, Michael! I’ve considered relocating to farther distances, but for me, just moving to Atlanta has helped. I’ve made a lot of like-minded friends and enjoy living within an hour and a half from my parents – as well as an hour and a half away from a concentration of small minds that probably turned both of us off growing up. I’m glad that you are happy living in Florida!

  3. June 13, 2012 4:43 pm

    I’m fascinated by your storytelling and what you’re going through with your dad. I’m glad you are keeping a record of it – I think that’s so crucial in your healing/dealing process.

    My grandmother has dementia, and I spend a lot of time with my mom and my therapist talking out how I will get over my mental block about spending time with her now that she’s so difficult to communicate with and not at all like the strong woman I grew up with.

    On a much lighter note, my husband LOVES the Red Eyed Mule, and he also claims that there is a very good looking woman there. So, there’s that 🙂

  4. June 13, 2012 4:51 pm

    Thank you so much, Emily! I’m sorry that your grandmother has dementia but am glad you are taking steps to overcome any anxieties that revolve around spending time with her. Even though my father is in the early stages, I worry about what we will talk about when I visit home and feel anxious over keeping myself together for the most part when I’m around him. All in all, dementia is a horrifying disease that steals people’s loved ones.

    I’m going to have to try the Red Eyed Mule! Once I tell my fiance about the good-looking staff member, he probably won’t protest my suggestion that we eat there.

  5. Timber permalink
    June 16, 2012 12:22 pm

    Interesting that Daddy has no problem recalling the “good-looking woman”…

  6. June 16, 2012 1:26 pm

    Such is the power of low-cut tank tops, breasts and onion rings.

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