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Your daddy would have loved that.

March 10, 2014

My father wore the same outfit for 14 days and showered once during that time span; at the two-week mark my mother demanded that he change clothes. For a couple years she convinced Daddy to shower by offering to take him out to eat or on a day trip to Blue Ridge or Dahlonega — but the excursions remained contingent on his cleaning up first. That tactic now is futile, as Daddy would rather stay in bed than do anything with one exception: visiting Timber or me.

Last weekend we celebrated Daddy’s Birthday in Atlanta, since I still can’t drive post-knee surgery. We went to lunch at Avondale Estates restaurant Pallookaville Fine Foods, which features choose-your-own-batter corn dogs, garbaged French fries (garbage toppings include pimento cheese, onions, malt vinegar, and sea salt), shaketails (alcohol-laced milkshakes), and other miscellaneous trash food that tastes amazing in the moment.

“Your Daddy would have loved that,” Mother said when I suggested we go to Pallookaville for his Birthday on the phone. That’s what my father’s Birthday has become: a memorial of his past self, an attempt to appeal to his former likes, in hopes that the neurons in his brain will correctly fire for a second, and the shell of his body will smile in response.

Daddy holds up his corn dog.Daddy scarfed his jalapeño batter-dipped Corndogula, stabbed the pimento cheese-slathered fries with his fork, and sucked his Thin Lizzy shaketail (chocolate ice cream and Guinness) without reservation, which signaled success and served as Alzheimer’s code for “Thank You.”

By this point we offer Daddy gifts more to please ourselves than to make him happy. Mother gave him two pairs of the Nike track pant he already owns and always sports around the house and to bed. Upon Mother’s suggestion, I bought him a pair of lightweight Sanuk shoes: a warm weather alternative to the fleece-lined winter slippers he rarely removes.

“I’m gon’ try these on,” Daddy said, grunting and folding over his belly. He sighed, lay back on the sofa, and lifted his legs in a wordless request for assistance. During the Normal Daddy Days, I never would have touched him like that. Once I dropped a cheese puff on his crotch, and he slapped my hand away before I could get near it. Both crotch and feet comprised prohibited territory.

While I forced off Daddy’s shoes and socks and revealed his frighteningly long toenails, I felt like a nurse, invisible lasers transforming me from daughter to caregiver. Daddy held up his feet and admired his slippers, like I did when I got new shoes as a child.

Mother and I embraced in the kitchen before she and Daddy departed for Calhoun. I felt her crying; she wouldn’t let me go. I knew she didn’t want to go home.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2014 3:52 pm

    Bobbin, you are such a talented writer. I hope documenting all of this is helping process the emotions you’re going through; I know that’s helped with my dad. I’m so impressed with you!

    • March 10, 2014 4:15 pm

      Thank you, Katie! I’m glad that writing has helped you wade through some grief. Based on what I’ve read and the pictures I’ve seen, your father looked like an amazing badass who touched a lot of lives. Seems like you’ve had quite a rollercoaster of a year, with all the sadness surrounding the passing of your father, along with the excitement of buying a new home. Hugs to you!

  2. March 10, 2014 4:33 pm

    As always, crying onto my laptop.

    • March 11, 2014 12:55 pm

      Thank you for reading, Lacey. XOXO.

    • Michael J permalink
      March 14, 2014 12:55 pm

      I’d be a liar if I said it didn’t bring a tear to my eye as well.

  3. Sherry Bailey permalink
    March 11, 2014 12:36 pm

    Beautiful. This made me cry. I lost my Mother to Alzheimers in 2008. The only thing my sister, brother, and I had left was humor to console us. Laughing at the lies she made up and silly little things she did sometimes put things in a different perspective. I know people probably thought there was something wrong with us. We have always been a little warped but it got us through 🙂 Wish I had thought at the time to blog some of the things and so glad I’ve found your blog now. I’m sure there will be more tears on my keyboard as I follow your journey. Just know there are others there holding your virtual hand.

    • March 11, 2014 12:54 pm

      Sherry, I’m so sorry about your mother but am glad you had siblings to support you through the long, slow process. People who didn’t understand might have thought you were warped, but life is a dark comedy. What do we have without humor? Thank you for reading and for the virtual hand squeeze. I felt it.

      • Sherry Bailey permalink
        March 11, 2014 2:19 pm

        Even though there are people who are there for you, it always feels like such a lonely process when it is happening. If you ever need a virtual hand to hold or a virtual shoulder to cry on, I would be happy to have soggy sleeves 🙂

      • Gigibeth permalink
        March 11, 2014 2:28 pm

        I am Sherry Bailey’s sister above. You are so smart to blog about your journey. I wish I had thought about doing that those few years we walked that road, but I’m not really sure I could have. I’m not doing too well now sitting here writing to you and she’s been gone almost 6 years. It’s easy to laugh when you’re around people, but when you’re alone with your thoughts, it’s not quite the same. But you will get through this. It’s a tough road but you want no regrets. Spend as much time as you can with him, whether he knows you or not. If he forgets who you are, you can be a new friend to him! Hugs to you and to your Dad. And a super big hug for your Mom.

  4. March 11, 2014 2:48 pm

    Hi, Gigibeth. Thank you for stopping by Hot Dog Beehonkus and offering your wisdom. It’s true that those sad moments in total solitude are the scariest of all — a good friend of mine calls those thoughts that arise the Mind Monsters. I wish you the best in keeping the Mind Monsters away and finding peace and comfort in the memories of the good times with your mom. Thank you especially for the super big hug for my mother. She’s bearing a heavy weight, and I worry about her. All my best to you and your sister!

  5. Lenny Wilson permalink
    March 12, 2014 12:15 pm

    My name is Lenny and I literally stumbled across this blog looking for a phone number to McKay’s book store. This story really touched me not because I see someone caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, but I see the love for a dad that I pray my own children will one day exhibit to me. I know my kids love me but my daughter at 16, still looks at me as gross and uncool. Probably not unlike the feeling most teenagers hold for their dads.
    Rest assured, when it counts, you are obviously there for your father in whatever capacity is needed. I thank you so much for that on behalf of your father. I’m certain there are difficult days, but this grateful Dad appreciates you and wants to let you know what I’m certain your own dad is thinking.

    • March 12, 2014 12:46 pm

      Thank you so so much, Lenny. While your daughter is going through an awkward time, I hope she will cross that bridge soon and come out on the other side with some perspective and appreciation for you. In return, I thank you on behalf of your daughter — take it from a former obnoxious teenager who knows what your daughter is thinking.

      Also, I hope you found the phone number to McKay’s. That place is awesome!

  6. Timber permalink
    March 14, 2014 5:19 pm

    I wish we had known about Pallookaville earlier! Mother really needs some help managing Daddy. I hope the VA comes through with some kind of assistance. It would be great if someone could stay with him one day so she could just do something fun!

  7. March 25, 2014 11:01 am

    This is incredibly good and sad Bobbin. I’m crying, but it was a wonderful read.

    • March 26, 2014 6:27 am

      Thank you, Joe! Life is one big pendulum throw from happy to sad. (Can you tell I’ve been listening to Eddie Vedder?)


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