A couple of years ago, before Dad’s Alzheimer’s took away his speech, when I visited sometimes he would be sitting in his recliner in the living room, binoculars in hand.
“I’m watching the hawk out there in the park,” he’d say and nod his head towards the picture window across the room.
“In first big tree you see over there.”
I looked, but all I saw was a small clump of brown dead leaves in the tree. I assumed Dad was imagining things.
Last Tuesday when I visited, Dad was still in bed. I sat down on a footstool in his office—a card table Mom set up beside the living room window and stocked with activities for Dad. He has a container of coins that he likes to run his fingers through and sometimes sorts with help. He has a memory card game that I got him for Christmas; the cards have photos of famous places in the world like the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben. He has a wooden box that he used to keep some of his wood tools in but that now contains odds and ends that he uses. He has a set of wooden blocks under the table. I recently got him a dot-to-dot book that goes up to the number 10. I also got him one that goes up to 20, but Mom thought he should start with the easier one. He is able to do it with assistance. There are colored pencils in a jar and now crayons that Larry, his weekend evening home health aide, brought him because he thought they would be easier to use than the pencils. Dad doesn’t press down very hard with the pencil and is only able to leave very light marks.
As I was waiting for Mom to get Dad up from his afternoon nap, I sat there in Dad’s office looking out the window. All of a sudden I noticed a flurry of activity in the park across the street. Two small birds flew out of a leaf-covered fallen branch. Then seemingly from the same branch a large hawk spread its wings and rose majestically to the big tree in the park, just where my dad had showed me.
I’m sorry I doubted you, Dad. You were right.
Once Dad was up, settled in the kitchen, and had drank his Ensure, we started working on his scrapbook. I had brought a plastic bin of supplies: special scissors; letter stamps and an ink pad; cutting stencils; hole-punches in the shape of a heart, a star, and a flower; glue sticks; and lots of colorful paper. Over the last six months or so, we have completed scrapbook pages of him as a child, his parents, his military career, his siblings, and his wedding to my mother. Last week I brought photos I had printed of my oldest sister.
My dad and I sat at the table for nearly two hours and worked on the scrapbook. Dad loves using scissors. Even when I didn’t give him something specific to cut out, he continued to use the scissors on scraps of paper scattered on the table. He was very busy and quite content. It was a peaceful afternoon.
The day got late and I had to go home. I cleaned everything up and packed it back in my bin. As I was saying my good-byes, I said, “Thank you, Dad, for helping me with the scrapbook today.”
He grabbed my hand and squeezed it, his eyes intent on mine as if he was trying to communicate something to me.
You’re welcome, Dad. My pleasure.