Dementia has forced him into social exile. He’s impossible to read. Every time I see him he is more withdrawn. I often wonder what it must be like to be in his shoes. Does he know he is losing the thread? Is he frightened by it? Does he want to talk about it? Does he want us to comfort him? Or does he just want to be left alone?
There are even times, like earlier this week, when I wonder whether he might find some humor in it. My Dad of five or ten years ago certainly would have.
When my 11 year old nephew was visiting from Oklahoma last month he left a pair of swim trunks. My wife asked her brother Joe, who happened to be travelling to Oklahoma, to drop them off. Joe doesn’t know where my nephew lives so he decided to leave them at my parent’s house. He knows my dad well.
Joe rang the doorbell. My mom wasn’t home but after several long minutes my dad appeared behind the glass storm door.
“Can I help you?” my Dad asked Joe rather tentatively.
Joe realized that my Dad didn’t recognize him.
“Hi. Mr. Hoch. It’s me. Joe. I have something I need to drop off.”
My Dad allowed for a small crack in the door and took my nephew’s swim suit.
Later that evening my mom arrived home and saw the swim suit on the kitchen cabinet.
“Tom what is this?”
“Hell if I know.”
“Well where did it come from?”
“Some man brought it by.”
“Who was the man?”
“Hell if I know.”
Beaten down by the disjointed, erratic, unexplained events that accompany this disease, my Mom didn’t give it much thought. I don’t think she was particularly frustrated or concerned. She was probably just resigned to the fact that her new reality is accompanied by many mysterious occurrences. She’d drive herself crazy trying to run them all to ground. So she let it go.
A few days later my sister in law was visiting my parents when she saw the swim suit.
“That’s odd. That looks just like one of William’s swim suits,” she said. “Where did that come from?”
“I don’t know. Tom said that some man brought it by.”
“Really? Who was it?”
“Hell if he knows.”
“So some strange man just appeared at your front door and dropped of a boy’s swim suit?”
“Apparently,” said my Mom.
Of course this whole episode could have been easily explained if someone from my family had notified my parents or my sister in law that Joe would be by with William’s swim suit. But who would find the humor in that? I wish my Dad could. I know he would.