“So really… you don’t need to get rid of anything, we just need to go through and make sure we take everything you want to… ”
Its been two weeks, he is eager to get started with the packing to Texas….I know the space he will have, and although I want him to take all he wants, the contents of this trailer will not fit in his 10×12 bedroom. One the one hand, I realize he will adjust better if he has his cherished belongings with him, but I am also only human; the thought of the authentic Amish built fireplace that plugs into the wall and starts with a simple push of a button being anywhere other than his room just sets my teeth on edge.
I’m looking at Griff as he finishes his porridge and blueberries, scraping the bowl clean, until nothing, not even a molecule of oatmeal is left in his bowl. I giggle, prideful, he really seems to enjoy simple things, it never fails to give me great pause. But he still isn’t putting that piece of crap electric space heater dressed as Amish Furniture anywhere near my family room.
“So..what would you like to start with today?”
I try to direct his actions as much as I can. Yesterday he sorted through bags of clothing he had filled, placed in the hall the previous day, had forgotten he packed and had gone through again, …twice.
Doctor, I wonder about this foggy thought process, is it grief or something else? I think Hilda was covering for him for a while, he does funny things sometimes… Is there a test you can do? Griff completed the computer driven assessment in less than 45 minutes. Came out to the car and said, “That was a complete waste of time.”
Results in two weeks, actually on my 48th birthday. Happy Birthday!
“I need to go through that closet there,” he points to the small entry closet that holds coats, hats, shoes, and various brooms, both straw and nylon bristle, mops, because one can not have enough brooms or mops or swifter sweepers, or dustpans, or different brand sponge mop head replacements that once purchased in error, but heaven forbid can not just throw away…that would be wasteful.
I decide to leave him to it.
I tackle the shed, with its few hundred plastic shopping bags hung from hangers on a pole across the width of the place that has made me duck every single day, every single time I did the laundry. The pole is a closet pole, with not a single centimeter of space to add one more hanger on.
It is crammed full of hundreds of hangers of various manufacture, plastic freebies that come with clothes, dry cleaning wire, but without the cardboard tube that keeps the pants from creasing, and tubular plastic, which I have learned are the “good” ones. Even the broken tubulars are good, they are the ones that have been mended with duck tape. I swear this is all true.
From each of these hangers hangs a plastic logo embossed shopping bag, from either Target, Wal-Mart or Albertsons.
Inside these the primary sacks are the secondary sacks, hundreds of them, they dangle and sway these plastic grocery sacks, they block all light and air from entering said shed, and every single day I have had to bend and duck to get through this plastic gauntlet…
I know I said we were not going to get rid of anything…but liar liar pants on fire…this shit is going to the bin pronto…
I take gleeful arm loads of plastic to the recycle bin and just let it fly…
Why did they save them you ask?
These were saved of course as they are the garbage bags.
“Never buy garbage bags, we use these, they are free!”
They are also much too small for a days worth of trash…..but thrift supersedes convenience here.
There is even a plastic grocery sack use it as a trash can holder under the kitchen sink MADE for just such a purpose. Totally true.
After lunch and closet and shed cleaning comes the scheduled appointment at the Social Security Office.
“Ready?” Griff picks out todays members only jacket, light blue, the man isn’t dressed without a jacket, totally old school.
I am ready for right hand turn man. I have taken my crackberry outside, found a good signal and downloaded directions and a map.
“Where are we going?”
“Social Security Office”
And then, ” All clear, ….no one coming, ….you can go… all clear”
white knuckle time again…shit just getthefuckoverit already…he is trying to be helpful.
Before we hit the end of the road he asks again, “Where are we going?”
“Social Security Office Griff, you have an appointment”
“Oh Ok, ….do you have all the paperwork?”
“Yes, …. I have everything we need…. no biggie”
Then again as I go under the 19 north, “Ah we missed the road, need to turn around”…
“No…. the Social Security Office is just ahead on the right Griff…”
“Oh…. I thought we were going to the Doctors office…”
It actually happened six times in the span of less than ten miles, but I didn’t think writing it truthfully would be easy to believe.
In the span of less than 10 miles, less than 20 minutes, Griff asks me 6 times where we are going. I answered him every time.
I don’t need the results, I know already…another bad word has started to live right at the back of my mouth, dementia. I look up the details via crackberry. He doesn’t bathe as in if I don’t tell him he wont ever go shower, as in wholly crap I am not getting into the car unless he is forced into the shower and that hair better be wet and washed before you get out! The memory loss, can’t write, don’t even think about balancing a check book, the symptomatology is overwheling…I try not to hyperventalate as I am reading. But I know… I know… I know what this will mean to me and the way I live my life. Everything is about to change.
The day of the appointment looms.
“Gary and Megan are coming today,”
“There coming today? I thought they were coming next week?”.
No buddy I have told you every day, three days til they come, two days until they come, one day, he just doesn’t remember.
So off we go, to hear the news, the results. I know already, he knows everything about every English Monarch King or Queen, World War II, and fifties pop star, but can never tell me what he did the day before, who he just talked to on the phone, what day of the week it is, and if he brushed his teeth…
It’s official at the end of the visit, but I have to ask for the results, neurology boy can answer his cell phone in an exam room with patient and family, rock back in his chair like he was playing X-Box, but can’t fucking read the chart to see we are waiting on test results…
” So his test results?” Shit bad girl, whatthefuckever. He doesn’t even meet my gaze.
Chicken Shit …Oh not now dad….
As I sit there I realize that its been 7 years to the day that my father died, another wonderful birthday surprise… thanks for that one big guy…
” Oh yes, well you know about his condition, he has Parkinson’s, and Shy Dragger syndrome, MSA, but the results of the test were not good, he tested extremely poorly in all areas, it shows that he has base line dementia.”
Griff hears. Griff understands, he is quiet all the way to the car…
Tension is building my throat is dry, I have no saliva, I croak anyway…
” Ok assholes, its my birthday, let’s go do some shopping! I need some new shoes, and I think lunch out is on the menu cause I refuse to wash a dish today…..”
Griff laughs, “Oh I forgot its your Birthday!”
All is well, for the moment.
Later, much later when the trailer is quiet and we are washing dishes I ask Gary, ” So how do you think he did with the diagnosis?”
“He has forgotten about it all ready”
We get the Drum Stick, an evening ritual for Griff, bring it to the family room and hand it to Griff.
” I tell you,” he says between bites of the cone.” Of all the things wrong with me, that dementia is the worst.”
I look away, Gary says, ‘ By the time it really happens you’ll never know Dad.”
I can’t…. cause I will know, I will know, and I can not believe I will have to watch it happen, and I know everything is about to change for Griff, and for me as well.