Dad was waiting for Mom to help him get up when I walked into the bedroom. He was lying on his back on a diagonal in the middle of the queen-size bed, wrapped in the top sheet. I sat down beside him and accidentally sat on his bent knee. “Oops,” I said as I stood back up right away. “I bet that didn’t feel good.” He just continued to look at me with a rather blank expression.
“Do you know who I am?” No response.
“It’s okay if you don’t know who I am,” I said. “I’ll just tell you.”
Here’s the miracle for the month.
“You’re my youngest daughter,” Dad said.
Count them. Four words. Five if you count the contraction. A complete sentence.
“You’re right,” I answered. “I’m your youngest living daughter.” I wasn’t going to mention Annie‘s name which always makes him cry. But technically she is or was his youngest daughter.
I decided to sit down again. “This time I’m going to try not to sit on you,” I said. And he looked like he might laugh. He looked like he thought that was funny, as I had intended it to be. Then all of a sudden his facial features shifted into the sad theatrical mask and he was crying. That fast.
The doctor said that Alzheimer’s can cause miscommunication in the brain. So even though a person may feel like laughing, what actually happens is they cry. That causes confusion for family members who now don’t know why the person is sad. But it might also cause all kinds of confusion for Dad who may not understand why people are responding to him the way they now are. And the sad fact of the matter is, because he is so non-communicative, I will never know.
Anyway, I was thrilled with Dad’s monologue and told my mom. She thought it was a good thing that Dad called me his youngest daughter. She thought that meant that he remembers Annie has died. I’m not so sure, because I think if he was fully cognitive and remembered that Annie died, he would still count her among his daughters. But I’ll never know.
And it really doesn’t matter.
Mom brought Dad out to the kitchen table where I sat down beside him. He looked straight at me—again a fairly unusual thing recently. And for a heart beat I expected to hear him ask about Mark, or what car I drove up there, or tell me about something he had heard on the news or read in the paper.
For a heartbeat.
Then he looked away and started rubbing the table top making long solid strokes like it was a fine piece of wood he had sanded to a soft satin finish.
Just like I used to watch him do so many times in the past.