Dad Has Dementia

Week 10: A Single Golden Day to Cherish

Last updated:

March 19, 2010

When Dad moved in, I naively thought (as I've said before) that the experience would be, I dunno, like a frat buddy moving in. We'd all have a great time, laugh a lot, watch (and talk) sports. We'd achieve some sort of familial nirvana, and then Dad would quietly slip away during the night at some point. Tears would be shed, prayers offered, a eulogy delivered.

At least, that was my fantasy.

The reality has been quite different. We've all "“ especially Dad "“ been going through a difficult adjustment period.

And then, like magic, that familial nirvana moment happened last Saturday.

The day dawned sunny and cool. The perfect day for working outside. But first, Dad and I did a little shopping (for shovels and landscape fabric) and had breakfast at his favorite local eatery.

Dad's an old farmer. He would have stayed a farmer his entire life were it not for Mom's health issues. Dad still loves the outdoors, and part of the adjustment for him has been, simply put, cabin fever. Even here in the high desert, it's often too cold for a frail senior citizen to get outside much during the winter months. And our growing season, unlike Southern California, is not a year-round one.

But now it's March. March, with all its promise of spring: budding trees, vines leafing out, and daffodils showing their lemony heads. Soon, winter will be over.

So, on a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon, Lee and Dad and I trooped outdoors to get some work done in the backyard.

Dad sat on a patio chair and used pruners to snip last fall's sunflower and zinnia stalks into small bits for the compost pile. Periodically, I brought him steaming cups of coffee. Maxine (our dog) alternated between racing gleefully around the yard and sitting quietly next do Dad for petting.

Lee and I used chain link fence pipes to skid a massive piece of old concrete into position as a step into the workshop we recently built. We also dug a shallow trench around the workshop to fill with gravel for catching roof runoff. We wheel-barrowed several loads of dirt onto the compost pile and spread more of it onto low spots in the yard. From time to time, we took a break to enjoy ice water and throw a ball for Maxine.

During the three-plus hours we spent outside, we enjoyed fresh air, plenty of warm (but not burning) sun, and tons of camaraderie. We cracked bad jokes, got dirty, and wore ourselves out.

Dad couldn't have been happier.

Later, collapsing into bed after a good, hot shower to soothe sore muscles, I told Lee long after Dad is gone, when I look back at the time he spent with us, this is the day I'll always picture: Dad sitting contentedly in his chair, working in the dirt. It's a memory I'll cherish for the rest of my life.