I was talking to my mom yesterday and she was telling me about how she flipped over the sofa cushions. (Yes, bless her heart, she describes her life to me in this kind of micro-detail.) When she lifted up the cushions, she found a blue pen that belonged to Dad and an old photograph. My ears perked up at the mention of a photograph.
My mom said it was a wallet-sized black-and-white photograph taken at a wedding. My dad is on the end, perhaps the best man. My mom didn’t recognize the other people in the photograph, the apparent bride and groom, and a woman on the opposite end of my dad, probably a bridesmaid. My mom broke out the magnifying glass to see if she could read the printing on the back of the photograph. It was some photography studio in Belfast, so at least the location is known, but no year could be found.
Of course, the big question is, what in the world was this photograph doing under the sofa cushion in the living room of my parents’ condo? It’s common for those with Alzheimer’s to drift to their past, as those memories seem to be left intact longer than trying to deal with the confusing present. So maybe Dad stumbled across this photograph in a drawer and decided to hang on to it. Maybe he slipped it into one of his many wallets when he went through his money hoarding phase and it fell out. We’ll never know for sure, but it does make me want to turn the rest of the house upside down to see what treasures are hidden.
One of the last things my father said in my presence was about three weeks before he died. He had been moved from CCU to the regular medical floor at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque. After watching him narrowly escape death, I had to head home to Atlanta. He seemed a bit brighter and more coherent.
He said, “I’m going to go see Maureen and Kathleen.” (Those are his sisters, both still living. They live in Northern Ireland and Australia, respectively.)
I said okay and he replied, “Sure, why not?”
Why not indeed? If memories of happier family times brought him some sense of comfort, if it offered him a brief respite from the dementia, then so be it. Even if he could only see his sisters and relive these memories captured in old photographs in his rapidly disintegrating mind, so be it.