Many reports of the recent cruise ship tragedy off the coast of Italy have drawn parallels to the Titanic. 2012 also marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking. That made me think about my dad’s obsession with the Titanic. The ship was built in his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and was a source of pride for the working-class people of that city. The Titanic set sail on its ill-fated maiden voyage on April 10, 1012; my dad was born April 10, 1932. Of course, the ultimate tragic fate of the legendary ship has been recounted in numerous books, movies and documentaries. While my dad of course mourned the massive loss of life, he could still appreciate the mystique of the story, with the lavish accommodations, the eclectic mix of passengers, the feeling of adventure those must have felt embarking on such a trip.
If there wasn’t a massive tome about the Titanic on my dad’s bedside table, then he was watching a PBS documentary on the subject. He loved to relate the details of the voyage that he learned about, as if he had been a passenger himself. I think it was like a fantasy world he delved into, long before his mind was ever crippled by dementia.
And how do I know that my dad didn’t retreat to a fantasy world just like that once the dementia did take hold. Maybe the real world increasingly became an irritating distraction to this alternative world he was slipping into. If so, I hope it was all champagne and caviar and song and dance, with no icebergs in sight.