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Me pootin’.

February 12, 2014

daddy-augustaA few weeks ago my family visited Timber in Augusta to celebrate a late Christmas, as Timber’s intense work schedule prevented holiday travel. Because my parents and I already had exchanged gifts, presents addressed to Timber scattered the living room floor. And even though Christmas had occurred weeks prior, Santa figurines, wintry garlands, and red ribbons remained arranged across Timber’s apartment.

“Robert, do you know what we’re celebrating?” Mother asked.

“Timber’s Berfday?” he asked.

“No, we’re doing a late Christmas,” Mother explained. “Timber’s Birthday is in September.”

“Oh,” he shrugged.

I understand Daddy’s befuddlement since a pile of presents surrounded Timber’s feet. Clearly his sense of time is totally warped, and decorative visual cues make no difference.

Later that evening we watched TV while lounging on the sofa. Suddenly the cushions shook and the room rumbled as though a train were rushing across nearby tracks.

“What was THAT?” I asked with alarm.

“Me pootin’,” Daddy said.

“Robert! Eww!” Mother screamed.

One afternoon we took the dogs for a walk at the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area. Because Daddy’s pace has become so slow, I dawdled along the path with him and his Scottish Terrier Winston, while Timber, Mother, and her West Highland Terrier Obi power walked ahead.

“Obi and Winston studied at Boston University,” Daddy randomly muttered.

“What?” I asked.

“The terrier is the Boston University mascot,” Daddy clarified. “That’s where Obi and Winston got their degrees.”

Daddy’s retention of historic facts paired with his inability to recall important current details is both frustrating and sad. Last week I had knee surgery to repair two meniscal tears, and will wear a brace and walk on crutches for six weeks. Mother stayed with us for a few nights and left Daddy with the dogs in Calhoun; instead of inquiring about my pain levels and recovery, Daddy fretted over when Mother would return.

“When’re you comin’ home?” he asked every time Mother called to check in.

Fortunately I have adjusted to Daddy’s apathy and pretend that an Alzheimer’s zombie has overtaken his body. Daddy’s behavior still dismays Mother on a regular basis, though, which I began to better understand during her Atlanta sojourn. Mother requested that several people check on Daddy throughout the day, that her brothers take him to dinner every night, and that her supportive friend Bobby drive Daddy to back-to-back appointments one afternoon. Mother left a note for Daddy reminding him of his teeth cleaning, but when the dental office called to confirm, Daddy claimed he had to cancel because of a conflicting appointment — confusedly referencing Mother’s note. When Mother found out Daddy missed his teeth cleaning, she cried out of aggravation.

“It would have been so nice to have that taken care of!” she stomped.

When Mother returned to Calhoun, she found bone-dry dog water bowls and the odor of doo doo carelessly swiped off linoleum with a paper towel. I’ve expressed my concern over Daddy’s ability to watch the dogs for years, and I hope Mother finally recognizes that boarding them during travel now is her only safe option.

Soon after Mother’s arrival home, she conked out on the couch. She always sleeps with Obi on the sofa or in my childhood bed in order to avoid Daddy’s snoring and nightly wandering.

Yesterday Mother woke up in my bed with Daddy creepily hovering over her. “Shirley Temple died,” he announced and shuffled off.

Most nights during one of his snack runs, Daddy wakes Mother up and asks, “When are you comin’ to bed with me?”

“In a minute,” she answers. She always stays put, though. Daddy never will know.

Your mother was always a brilliant investor.

January 15, 2014

Christmas has become a barometer by which I measure my father’s Alzheimer’s progression. His engagement with guests at the dinner table, energy during our annual gift exchange, and overall cognizance of the holiday erode each year. For so long he led the conversation from his spot at the head of the table. He still sits in the captain’s seat but can’t remember how to steer. He knows he should be there; it’s ingrained in his brain. The rest of us quietly regard the ghost of our leader, eating and talking as though he weren’t there. Because he isn’t there. This year Daddy scarfed his food, physically present, but mentally far away in a world devoid of the rattling of iced sweet tea, the clanking of flatware, the rapid passing of the butter: all to Daddy a confusing aural jumble. Upon finishing his plate he asked my mother, “May I be excused?”

Daddy retreated to the familiarity and safety of his bedroom. I only could coax him out when I announced we were opening presents. During his turn, he pulled a bottle of wine out of the same bag three times, repeating the label. Daddy’s sense of interest is a little pile of sawdust that Alzheimer’s is hovering over, and with one more breath will blow away.

The most recent holiday was particularly hard on my mother because Timber couldn’t make it home to celebrate. Ryan and I spent Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas Day with his folks: one of the bittersweet compromises that accompanies marriage. Daddy’s worsening condition paired with Timber’s absence hit Mother with what she called a “double whammy.”

Last Christmas morning everyone woke up together and explored our stockings. Both Daddy and Ryan discovered mini screwdrivers in the big toe of their stockings, which Mother balanced with lip gloss for the girls. When Timber reached the bottom of her stocking, she turned it over, eventually shaking it with dismay, then anger.

“What?” she gasped. “Where’s my mini screwdriver?!”

“The men got screwdrivers, honey,” Mother tiptoed. “And we got lip gloss!”

“BUT! By giving Daddy and Ryan mini screwdrivers, that means you and Bobbin automatically get mini screwdrivers, too. You are singling me out because I’m not married! How could you?!”

Daddy had remained mute the entire morning but ingeniously commented, “Sounds to me like you need to find yo’self a man!”

Daddy’s witticisms are becoming less and less frequent, although lately he sarcastically has harped on Mother’s “financial savvy” and obsessively checked one of his main savings account balances online.

“Look at this!” he exclaimed. “Look at all this money! Your mother was always a brilliant investor.”

Before Alzheimer’s hijacked his brain, Daddy never discussed money; he revealed his salary to me once when my college scholarship applications required I divulge it. I asked Daddy how much money he makes when I was a little girl, and he called my question tacky and rude.

On Christmas Eve night Daddy called his investment firm’s customer service line claiming he had been locked out of his online account, although he simply was looking at the wrong log in credentials in his password reminder book. While we washed the dishes, Mother and I eavesdropped on his conversation with an Edward D. Jones representative.

“I miss him,” Mother said.

I started drying the silverware and sighed, “Yeah. I miss him, too.”

I’m ready to open presents now.

November 29, 2013

Daddy loving his BirthdayRyan thinks I place abnormal emphasis on Christmas and Birthdays. But like my obsessive compulsive personality, belief in a higher power, and adoration for hot dogs, the joy I derive from giving and receiving presents is a product of my upbringing. Mother’s thoughtfulness paired with her generous spending of Daddy’s money incited me at an early age to select gifts that prove how well I know their recipients. The folds of my brain flip like file folders containing present ideas noted when my loved ones drop hints in casual conversation: my best friend mentioned longing to shop at the store Helix in downtown Athens, Georgia (Bingo! A Helix gift card! I listen! I am the best friend ever!); Mother drooled over expensive return address stickers on a snobby stationery website (Ooo! Personalized Wages labels with birds on them! I am so giving! I am the cooler daughter!); Timber has been sporting statement necklaces for years (Check it out! An enormous neck piece fashioned from a man’s tie! Hey sis! Do you forgive me yet for breaking that mirror over your head in 1987?!).

While I enjoy watching anyone open a perfectly selected prezzie, in the past I wanted to please my father the most — because he gave me everything. This reminds me of my two favorite stanzas from Billy Collins’ “The Lanyard,” in which Collins’ childhood self fashions a lanyard for his mother at summer camp:

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Daddy getting stoked over a giftSimilarly, I have offered Daddy a six-pack of Red Stripe to reciprocate for the semen that formed my zygote; a tin “Ranger Parking Only” sign in exchange for my first car; and a Keurig: payback for loving me during my Terrible Teens, sending me to college, and influencing me to uphold 70% of his values.

For so many years Daddy anticipated gift-opening with the excitement and impatience of a child.

“I’m ready to open presents now,” he would announce in the middle of his Birthday dinner.

“Robert, let us finish eating first!” Mother would giggle and whisper, “You can tell he was an only child.”

Daddy hoorayed when Timber gave him his favorite movie, Fiddler on the Roof, on DVD; whooped when he pulled a Waffle House gift certificate from his Father’s Day card; and pumped a fist when he realized a Nordstrom box actually contained fishing gear — his fervor similar to a young boy who received all the pieces to a Lego wonderland from Santa Claus.

Now nothing gets a rise out of Daddy, not a Woolly Bugger fish fly, not a framed picture of the man who saved his life in Vietnam, not even a Varsity chili dog.

I asked Daddy on the phone what he wants for Christmas this year.

“Hmm, I dunno. Thank ye, b-bye!” he hung up.

What the hell do I give the man who deserves the Greatest Christmas Present in the World? I’ll try to meet Daddy in whatever year he’s stuck in, and jog with him on that broken treadmill. And when he decides to disappear in the back of the house and go to sleep, I won’t protest and let him do the one thing that makes him happy.

Darlin’, should pot be legalized?

November 11, 2013

daddy-robeWhen not eating, walking the dogs, or coaxed to leave the house, my father sleeps. His robe strongly resembles the lounge attire Leonard often wears on the television show The Big Bang Theory. (See photo to the right; photo of Leonard courtesy of rachaelgibson.co.uk.) Daddy’s robe once symbolized weekend cups of coffee and Christmas morning, but now the Native American print reminds me of the parts of my father Alzheimer’s has taken away. Daddy traipses through the house at 3 p.m. donning the robe in search of an afternoon snack, slippers slapping linoleum; he retired to bed halfway through my uncle’s Birthday dinner on Friday night.

When my parents and I visited Timber in Augusta a few weekends ago, Timber knew not to purchase a fourth ticket for the Taste of Summerville and Tour of Homes. (Summerville is Augusta’s “old money” historic district.) Daddy would rather doze than take a trolley tour of local bars and peruse some of the city’s oldest abodes. While Timber, Mother, and I got ready for the Taste of Summerville, I poked my head into the guest bedroom and watched my father stare into nowhere, contemplating nothing, one series of blinks blurring into the next. I choked a little and proceeded downstairs.

While riding the trolley to the Partridge Inn, we befriended a girl and her mother, whose husband passed away several years ago. After pressuring Mother to take one sip of a mojito (“I have to drive us home!” she insisted), I observed her easy socialization with another woman near her age. I watched the condensation slide down the woman’s mojito glass and around her empty ring finger, realizing my mother is halfway a widow: a few months ago Mother got a flat tire and hitchhiked to a friend’s house in order to call for help. Daddy couldn’t drive to her rescue even if he wanted to. But more disturbingly, he remained unruffled when Mother finally arrived home and described her hideous day.

During lunch at a local cafe Timber mentioned a game she and her friends sometimes play at the dinner table. One person chooses a card from the deck and asks a personal question all diners take turns answering.

“For example,” she explained. “If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be? Mother?”

“I would be funny,” she responded without hesitation. “Some people are naturally funny, and I wish I were like that.”

“I wouldn’t be so jealous,” Timber said. “I tend to envy people’s possessions.”

“I wouldn’t be so obnoxious,” I nodded. “What about you, Daddy? What would you change about yourself?”

“Nothing,” he announced. “I’m perfect.”

The next morning Timber fixed us breakfast. While we waited I solved a pathetic number of words in the Creative Loafing crossword puzzle, and Daddy watched Fox News, shouting questions every few minutes like a child.

“Darlin’, when can we go to Gatlinburg?”

“We agreed we would go in February,” Mother replied.

“Darlin’, can we eat at the Burnin’ Bush when we go to Gatlinburg?”

“The Burning Bush closed, Robert.”

“Darlin’, when are we going to pick up the dogs?”

“When we get back to Calhoun tomorrow afternoon.”

“Darlin’, should pot be legalized?” he asked after watching a news segment about medical marijuana.

“I think it can be useful for medical purposes.”

Daddy’s mind is an eroding canvas, a painting in reverse. I dread the day I disappear from the picture.

Can you tell me which jack-o-lantern is new?

October 10, 2013

Growing up I read Highlights, a children’s magazine. My favorite feature was The Timbertoes, a comic strip about a family made of wood. I hated Hidden Pictures, which required readers to locate small objects masked within a larger illustration.

No, the puddle on that sidewalk doesn’t resemble a spoon, I would scowl while reviewing the answers in the back of the magazine.

That dog’s ear looks nothing like a pear, I would huff.

I didn’t curse then, so I would mutter things like “Oh fooey” and “Foot!”.

“Watch ye mouth,” my father still would sometimes scold me.

Hidden Pictures skewed my sense of self-worth since I never could make out a bottle of toothpaste sketched into a tree trunk or a hardback book that also served as a chimney. Despite the long-term emotional scarring Hidden Pictures caused, I now play a similar game every morning on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s website: the Find Five Challenge. Two color photographs are placed side by side, and within 45 seconds users must click five nuances on the right-hand image that don’t appear on the left. Even worse: three wrong tries, and you’re out. Sometimes my heart races during the final five-second countdown, reawakening memories of my Hidden Pictures failures as a four-year-old.

“A-ha! BOOYAH!” I once shouted when I successfully selected five subtle variations on a Bengal cat’s coat. Perhaps my boss thought I had figured out a particularly challenging string of CSS.

I’m pretty sure that when my father underwent neuropsychological testing he was forced to engage in exercises similar to Hidden Pictures and AJC.com’s Find Five Challenge. He didn’t do well, hence an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

However, Daddy always is quick to point out items my mother recently has purchased; his eagle-eye attention to her shopping habits is deeply branded into his subconscious. Every year Mother scatters hundreds of jack-o-lanterns throughout the house along with other Halloween decorations. Jack-o-lanterns line the mantel, and Mother typically adds a new piece to the echelon every year. A couple weeks ago Mother arranged the multi-mooded pumpkins across the mantel and asked Daddy, “Can you tell me which jack-o-lantern is new?”

jack o' lanterns on Mother's mantel

“THAT ONE,” Daddy pointed without hesitation.

“You’re right!” Mother beamed.

Mother has spent Daddy’s money so predictably and for so long that Alzheimer’s still can’t cripple that part of his brain.

But what if Alzheimer’s likes being fucked in the ass?

October 2, 2013

I came up with a personal slogan for this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s: “Fuck Alzheimer’s in the ass!” While inebriated at my family’s lake house, my sisters-in-law and I criss-crossed our arms into a tepee of sorts and screamed, “Fuck Alzheimer’s in the asssssss!”

“Bobbin,” Ryan glared at me from the other end of the dock, pointing at his parents. “Stop.”

“Whatever, Dad,” I slurred. “We care about the cause.”

When I shared my slogan with my friend Adam, whose grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s, he grimaced.

“What, are you offended or something?” I asked, shocked by his prudishness.

“No, it’s just… what if Alzheimer’s likes being fucked in the ass?” Adam explained.

“Good point,” I squinted.

What are you up to this weekend? my friend Sean asked me last week on Gchat.

Bobbin: Fucking Alzheimer’s in the ass at the walk.

Sean: Don’t fuck Alzheimer’s up the ass. It probably likes it.

Bobbin: Alzheimer’s would be experimental like that. It fucks over everyone.

I sighed and resolved to use a new slogan next year.

alz1Despite my marketing failures, Team Hot Dog Beehonkus raised $1,116 to help put an end to this dreadful disease. Ryan as well as my mother and four of my in-laws walked with me in addition to making generous donations. We decided to leave my father at home, since he probably wouldn’t be able to handle a 3.1-mile jaunt around Atlantic Station.

The day before the event Daddy seemed strangely talkative and inquisitive on the phone.

“What else is happenin’?” he inquired several times after I discussed our cats, the house, and anything else new that came to mind. Timber also spoke with Daddy that day and mentioned his chattiness to Mother. For the first time in two years, he took interest in her career as a physician’s assistant and asked questions regarding her salary and health benefits.

I guess Daddy rose to the challenge of fucking Alzheimer’s in the ass, too. For a day he acted halfway like himself. However, his whole self would try to ground his 29-year-old daughter for using curse words.

What’s a ta ta?

September 18, 2013

I’ve been remiss in updating Hot Dog Beehonkus for a couple reasons: 1. Ryan and I got kicked out of the house we were renting and decided to buy our own place amidst the maelstrom and 2. lately I’ve been in a funk about my dad and haven’t found much about his steady progression joyful or funny. But! He came through the other day while visiting Timber in Augusta. During a morning walk with the dogs, a “Save the Ta Tas” bumper sticker drove past them – a popular breast cancer awareness campaign 99% of the population has pulled to a stop behind at a red light.

“What’s a ta ta?” Daddy asked.

“Robert,” my mother murmured as though explaining this wondrous synonym for breast would offend a stray cat or man riding a roaring lawn mower. “I’ll tell you when we get back to the house.”

However, Daddy wouldn’t let it go.

“When we get back to Calhoun, can we get a ta ta? Maybe we can get Bobbin and Ryan a ta ta, too!”

“Robert!” Mother clasped her chest. “Ta tas are BOOBIES.”

“Oh.”

Instead of lamenting the deterioration of our father’s vocabulary, Timber grew irritated that he didn’t offer to gift her a ta ta upon his return to Calhoun. When she relayed this vignette to me via telephone, my heart swelled with victory: Daddy chose ME as his top tittie recipient.

My father always has been more of a fanny man (hence the title of this blog, an homage to my mother’s beehonkus); in fact, growing up he always barked at her butt but never her breasts. When playing softball in the front yard Mother usually served as pitcher, and one summer evening I batted the ball straight into her areola.

“OUCH!” she bellowed.

“Poor Mommy,” Daddy cooed, massaging the wound – the most affection he ever offered her breast in front of Timber and me.

“Stop it!” she screamed.

In college I went through a brief phase of wearing tie dye fabric draped across my shoulders as an excuse for a shirt and bra. I decided sporting a green one I found at local consignment shop Psycho Sisters for Sunday lunch with my family would be appropriate, even though a couple Saturdays prior while wearing it at Club Europe a creepy 40-year-old man lifted me above his head and spun me around in a frightening re-enactment of his favorite scene from Dirty Dancing or Swan Lake. I couldn’t tell which one.

“Yer boob’s hangin’ out!” Daddy yelled when I leaned toward the bowl of green beans.

“Oops,” I said, realizing the sheet indeed had shifted to one side, ta ta hanging dangerously close to the mound of mashed potatoes on my plate.

“Good. Gawd!” he huffed, spooning raspberry jelly onto a slice of bread.

Oh how I long for the years when my bad ’90s clothes offended my father, when the word “ta ta” elicited a rise in his eyebrows that now are permanently stuck in a clueless dispassionate line.

I have Alzheimer’s?

July 17, 2013

A couple weekends ago Mother sent me this text message:

If you’d like to see The Lone Ranger, I could take Daddy to meet you in Cartersville for the 11:30 show, and then the two of you could come home together.

I interpreted that to mean:

Please take your daddy to see The Lone Ranger so I can have the afternoon to myself.

Despite my disinterest in seeing The Lone Ranger I cooperated so Mother could enjoy a 4-hour span sans daddysitting.

Daddy with his Annual Popcorn Bucket

Daddy with his Annual Popcorn Bucket

Daddy brought his Carmike Annual Popcorn Bucket for a mere $3.50 refill, carrying it like a trick-or-treater. His confusion at the concession counter, difficulty shuffling through the dark to our seat, and hyperbolic handling of his large Coke Zero reminded me of a toddler. Perhaps his physical and mental devolution perfectly coincided with the movie release, since both my parents watched The Lone Ranger growing up. With intense concentration, I pretended to be Daddy’s best friend Carolyn sitting on the living room floor of her childhood home, watching The Lone Ranger on the McCollum family’s black and white television.

Once Daddy and I returned to the house, Mother solicited his thoughts on the movie. He expressed himself like a child put on the spot at Thanksgiving dinner.

“There was action, and… and… it was exciting.”

Daddy immediately went to bed and stayed there when I departed for Atlanta – the first time he hasn’t walked me to the door.

Over the course of the past few weeks Mother has canceled Daddy’s subscriptions, particularly to The Wall Street Journal — now a needless $400 expense. These days Daddy might look at each section’s cover photo and then drop the paper back on the floor.

“We can’t subscribe to you anymore,” Mother tells whatever random customer service staff member calls. “My husband has Alzheimer’s.”

“I have Alzheimer’s?” Daddy asked the other day when he overheard the conversation.

“Yes.”

“I thought I had mild cognitive impairment,” he continued, an impressive phrase to remember from the early stages of the disease.

“No, you have Alzheimer’s,” Mother broke the news to him as if it were new.

Lately I’ve missed my father’s mentorship; Ryan and I are under contract on a house, a topic Daddy and I would have bonded over if he were normal. The director of my department at work looked at a scary inspection from another property and begged Ryan and me not to buy it.

“I really appreciate your advice, Peter,” I said, “since my dad can’t talk to me about this kind of stuff.”

“That’s great,” Peter said. “But I’m not that old. Can you please say older brother?”

I even cried to my realtor the other day, explaining why I asked so many personal questions about the stress of a mortgage. “I mean did you and Judy ever rough it? I’m s-s-s-sorry,” I stuttered. “It’s just, my dad has Alzheimer’s, and I sort of see you as a father figure even though we’ve only known each other a f-f-f-few weeks.”

As Daddy noticeably progresses, I feel myself embarking on a new phase of grief as well as coping techniques. Waking up naked and hungover in the guest bed or on the bathroom floor isn’t working for me anymore. After all, Jack and Cokes are expensive, and I have a mortgage to pay.

Man of Steel

June 18, 2013

WARNING: This post contains movie spoilers.

man-of-steelI took my family to see Man of Steel for Father’s Day. For several days prior to the film’s opening, Daddy told Mother he was dying to go.

“I wanna see the new Superman movie.”

“Well Bobbin’s taking you to see it for Father’s Day!”

“Oh really?! That’s GREAT!”

Ten or so times, Daddy repeated his cinematic desire.

“I wanna go to that new Superman movie.”

“You’re in luck! Bobbin’s taking you to see it for Father’s Day!”

“All RIGHT!”

In addition to Henry Cavill’s pillowy yet firm pectoralis major, I appreciated his manifestation of emotion: saving his classmates from drowning after their school bus swerves into a lake and watching his father die in a tornado chisel intensity into his face (and pectoralis major). Cavill exhibits depth far beyond what Dean Cain achieved on Lois & Clark. (I watched Lois & Clark during my formative years, so Dean Cain remains my Superman point of reference.)

Most little girls view their fathers as Men of Steel both physically and emotionally. A former Army Ranger, my father always maintained a particularly stoic temper. He sort of but not really wept in front of me once; my grandfather (his father-in-law) passed away while Timber was studying abroad in London. When we broke the news to Timber upon her return, he quivered while offering his most logical explanation: “I wanted us to grieve t-t-t-together.” Daddy quickly regathered his impenetrable armor and let Timber do the crying.

While Daddy always remained outwardly reserved, his expression suggested otherwise: furrowed brows and physical tics hinted that M16 rifles constantly fired in his mind. His crinkled eyebrows have softened into Alzheimer’s Stare.

Last week Daddy’s childhood best friend’s mother passed away at 97. During the drive to and from the funeral he obsessed over when he and Mother were scheduled to pick up the dogs from the hillbilly pet resort. As if unmoved by or unaware of her death, he didn’t reminisce with other service attendees and continually asked Mother on the ride home, “When are we getting the puppies?”

Finally before bed he mentioned, “Well I’ll miss Aunt Jenny.”

I spent Saturday with Timber, and my friend Kari asked how our dad is doing. Intrigued by what Timber would say, I let her answer: with a shrug. One of the last statements Daddy made to Mother before fading away was:

I’m afraid.

“Daddy isn’t afraid anymore,” Timber later said when I noted his overall apathy.

Daddy carries on fearlessly, unable to fully feel.

Daddy used to be my Superman but has transformed into a different kind of Man of Steel.

I know I got a good night’s rest because I didn’t fall asleep during church this morning.

June 5, 2013

Timber is living in my best friend Leslie’s childhood home in Dahlonega while completing her ER clinical rotation. Because Mr. and Mrs. McAbee are on vacation for the next couple weeks, my parents and I visited Timber this weekend. My public-facing pleasant facade quickly devolved, not only because I feel comfortable in the McAbees’ house but also because I remained frustrated from a family spat that had taken place a couple weeks prior. Despite my efforts to feign contentment, I couldn’t hide my irritation and came across like a teenage bitch, self-absorbed and intent on making everyone else’s life a living hell as well. Aware of my vexation, Timber kept asking me what was wrong. However, I couldn’t find the right words to accurately express how I felt — a plight that Alzheimer’s sufferers eventually face in the progression of the disease. I guess my reticence resulted from years of built-up animosity that can’t be summed up in an hour-long discussion or therapy session — and only can be understood by one of the members of my nuclear family.

Daddy at 2 Dog

Daddy at 2 Dog

Still, I wonder if an Alzheimer’s sufferer who points to a jug of sweet tea and asks someone to pass the whatchyamacallit, or who snaps his fingers while identifying an old friend as whoseywhatsit, feels the way I did, choking on thoughts that refuse to move from mind to tongue.

This loss of vocabulary and down the road, speech, explains why many Alzheimer’s patients cry out of exasperation. After Timber continued prodding me, I burst into tears because I didn’t know what to say or how to say it.

Wages sandwich

Wages sandwich

I eventually let down my unpleasant guard and lay beside Daddy in Leslie’s bed where he had been napping all afternoon after lunch at 2 Dog in Gainesville, the neighboring town. I forced Timber and Mother to join us for a daughter sandwich, flanked by Mother on one side and Daddy on the other. I suggested we skinny dip together in the McAbees’ pool, but everyone refused.

“You would swim naked if it were just you and Mother, wouldn’t you, Daddy?” I asked.

“I most certainly would NOT!” he huffed.

Mother and Timber left fully clothed for the pool, and I followed them naked — my style of a peace offering, a heartfelt truce.

When Mother and Daddy arrived home that evening, she immediately zonked out on the couch and didn’t wake up until 7 the next morning.

“I know I got a good night’s rest because I didn’t fall asleep during church this morning,” Mother said on the phone. (Her head typically rolls around during every sermon.)

Mother might think solid sleep prepared her for a boring Sunday service, but I prefer to believe our family spooning session on Leslie’s bed is what rejuvenated her the most.