Tag Archives: dad

If coffee could prevent Alzheimer’s

I was reading today about a study that suggested drinking coffee could delay Alzheimer’s. My first thought after reading the article was that it didn’t do my dad much good, and he drank coffee morning, noon and night.

But then I thought about it in another way. Wonder if all of my dad’s coffee drinking (I did a rough estimate based on his habits and age and estimated over 85,000 cups in his lifetime) delayed the disease by years? Dad was in his mid-seventies when he started to show signs of dementia. Maybe his love of coffee (he would drink it with anything, pizza, pasta, you name it) held off the crumbling of his mind for a few years?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know and hindsight is 20/20. If we knew what was to come, and that his coffee habit was keeping Alzheimer’s at bay for a few years, perhaps we would have lived our lives differently. Sadly, I doubt we would have changed a thing.

Other than a cigarette, a cup of coffee is the thing that reminds me of my dad the most. Even the last time I saw him alive, he asked for a cup of coffee.

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Dad’s unfinished novel

When Dad was in his twenties, he started writing a novel about a boxer. He said he wrote about fifty or so pages, before abandoning the project, throwing the pages carelessly into a dresser drawer before eventually tossing the words spun from his mind into the trash can like so much rubbish. I always was disappointed that the ending of the story was never created, having been rudely terminated with my father’s lack of drive.

Of course, many people at that age tackle fleeting careers as writers, artists, musicians. A few lucky and talented souls are able to exist on that charmed path for the rest of their lives, while most of us are forced to step onto a more realistic, humdrum path of responsibility. My dad was no different than the rest of the world, taking a stab at a fleeting dream.

Still, I wonder about the story. Who were the characters that my dad was fleshing out and bringing alive in his unfinished book? Was there a character based upon his brother-in-law, a fairly well-known Irish boxer by the name of Dixie McCall, whose boxing career was cut short by a drowning and burial at sea, never to be seen again by his family?

The novel’s characters are mere ghosts now, just like my father.

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A sunny Santa Monica visit

Dad’s wallets have been the source of some great finds, and this photo is one of those treasures. I have no recollection of the photo, but Mom thinks it was taken during a weekend visit to Santa Monica. It was one of those day outing trips that families take to keep the kids from getting bored. There was probably some cotton candy and a carousel ride involved. I do remember the shirt Dad is wearing, it was green and white, and it was one of his favorites. It’s funny how our mind throws away these happy memories that we would like to recall, while retaining darker memories that we would be relieved to let go of.

At any rate, this photo is just bursting with happiness. As I’ve mentioned before, Dad rarely smiled in photos because he was ashamed of his teeth, but he is flashing a big grin in this photo. I look angelic (for the moment, I’m sure that was subject to change at that age) and every bit playing the part of Daddy’s little girl.

The fact that Dad kept this photo tucked away in his wallet all of these years makes me wonder if he ever pulled it out and reflected back on these happy family times, or if it was just a forgotten moment that he carried around with him unknowingly.

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Dad’s favorite jacket

My mom and I found Dad’s old, beloved jacket as we were going through some of Dad’s old belongings. Dad was once a pretty sharp dresser, but as he got older, he gravitated towards a few favorite items that he would don on a regular basis. He had certain caps he loved wearing, and this was one of his favorite jackets.

When the dementia became more severe and he began wandering, we were happy he loved to wear this jacket because at least his name was stitched on it, even though it was becoming frayed. I took this photo to accompany a GPS tracking service offered by the Alzheimer’s Association. 

Dad never had the chance to use it as he had a medical emergency that landed him in the hospital. After that, he was housed in secure facilities so we didn’t have to worry about him wandering away anymore.

The jacket now resides in my closet.

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“The deer are here!”

When I visited my mom this week, each night at dinner we were greeted by deer passing by the back door. Coming from Atlanta, this is always a novelty for me, that such beautiful yet skittish creatures dare to venture so close to human territory. Of course, the deer know it as their territory, and we encroached upon it.

The deer look like phantoms in the snow as I steal a photo through the screen door. From December 2011 in Ruidoso, NM.

They move silently, with grace but always with a wariness to their gait. One deer seemed to be looking right at me as I set in awe at the dinner table.

Mom and I remember how Dad used to get excited by the deer as well. “The deer are here,” he would announce with glee. This is before the dementia and the hallucinations that came with it, when the deer became people out in the woods.

I could see Dad being reincarnated as a deer. He was quiet and suspicious yet had a gentle spirit.

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Dad’s final belongings

While I was visiting Mom, we went through two boxes brought over from the last assisted living facility that Dad resided at. In fact, he spent very little time there, as he was mostly confined to the hospital by that point.

Mom was not looking forward to the process, even though we both suspected that many of the items in the boxes would not be Dad’s. We were right. It’s a bit disturbing to handle clothes that belonged to strangers. Who were these people, and what were their stories?

And who ended up with Dad’s clothes and belongings?

We also found two photographs of someone’s grandkids, most likely, their smiling portraits foreign to us.

I did score a couple of Dad’s old jackets, which are precious to me, so it was worth the unsettling experience.

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The remains of a loved one


Dad's cremains

Here is a part of what remains of my Dad in this world. My mom has the remaining portion, but she’s not ready to set Dad out on display yet. We picked out a pretty rainbow-painted container for her, but it still sits in a plastic shopping bag on her dresser, surrounded by bills and all of the paperwork involving the dead.

Dad will soon board a plane with me and head back home to Atlanta. He never had the chance to visit me there, but his remains are arriving just in time for Spring, the city’s most glorious season.

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Dad with Band-Aids on his face

As a kid, I remember Dad emerging from the bathroom with Band-Aids stuck to his freshly shaven chin. “I nicked myself again,” he would sigh, and being squeamish at the sight of blood, he would slap on the first thing he could find. It was not always the ideal match. Sometimes he would be sporting the little round bandages, sometimes the skinny long ones. On the rare occasions of multiple shaving wounds, he would have a mix of bandages adorning his freshly shorn stubble. 

The last month of his life, Dad was in the CCU at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque. The nurse, a gregarious type who had called me in Atlanta to tell me that the doctor said keeping my dad on life support was futile, came in to shave my dad. My mom and I stepped out for lunch, and upon our return, the nurse rushed back into the room. “I’m so sorry,” she exclaimed.

Dad had a Band-Aid on his face, and a bit of dried blood could be seen around the edges.
“I accidentally cut him while shaving him,” the nurse said with great remorse.

Dad was unaware of the shaving snafu. He was under sedation and on a ventilator. I guess one could call it adding insult to injury, but considering everything Dad was going through at the time, floating somewhere between life and death, something with a simple fix like a shaving cut was almost a relief.

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Family time spent at the dentist

Even though my dad’s teeth were in pretty bad shape, I don’t remember him going that often to the dentist. He was the typical guy that would wait until the pain was unbearable before he’d go get the problem taken care of. I had plenty of cavities as a kid, but the main things I remember about my childhood dentist, Dr. Friedman, was the taste of the toothpaste (kind of like a berry bubblegum flavor) and the huge wooden chest of dollar store toys that you got to choose from when you completed your visit. So going to the dentist wasn’t traumatic for me at all.

My mom on the other hand, had a ton of problems with her teeth. Dr. Wyland was her dentist, and we made dozens of trips there as a family. While Mom was subject to the dentist’s drill, Dad and I had a blast. This place was the most awesome dentist office ever. First of all, I’ll never forget the giant homemade cookies that were in the waiting area. They were amazing. I always grabbed the chocolate chip, while Dad preferred the oatmeal raisin. I know, free cookies at the dentist? What an easy way to ensure a steady stream of future patients!

There was a soda and coffee machine, so Dad would buy me a Coke and he would get coffee, of course. Then, we went into the movie theatre. That’s right, the dentist office had its own theatre! They showed classic, family-friendly movies and Dad and I would hang out in there until Mom finally emerged, with her mouth all numbed up. Dad would sneak out a couple of times for a smoke break, of course, and he would always have the “usher” keep an eye on me. The usher was an older gentleman with white hair and a moustache. He looked a bit like Wilford Brimley. Dad liked to chat with him and I was more than content to eat cookies, drink soda and watch movies all afternoon long.

The dentist practice has changed names, but it still exists!

It’s crazy, but these trips to the dentist were enjoyable for me and my dad. I’m sure Mom would remember quite a different version of events.

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Dad driving me to school

The final place we moved to in Downey, Calif. was just down the street from the high school, so I had an easy walk. Before that, my dad would have to drive me.

He did not enjoy this task. Since he worked nights, he would have to get up early just to drive me in, and then go back to bed to get a bit more sleep. He was also not a morning person, which added to his displeasure.

The logo for Warren High School in Downey, Calif.

I was not happy about the arrangement either. High school was not a good experience for me, and I usually dreaded each day there. Having to hitch a ride in dad’s boat of a car just added to my adolescent anxiety. He always offered to drop me off right in front of the school, but I always made him park around the corner from the school because I was embarrassed of our car. I would glance around to make sure no one I knew was coming, and then dart out of the car quickly, not wanting to be associated with my dad or the car at that moment. I think I usually said thanks for the ride, but of course at that age, one doesn’t really appreciate the small sacrifices our parents make for us.

I still can picture those silent rides, with dad looking disheveled and unshaven, having just been rudely stirred from sleep to play chauffeur for his awkward, ungrateful teenage daughter. Looking back at it now, I wish I had taken advantage of those rare moments when we were alone together to talk to him, even if it had just been small talk. Alas, one cannot go back in time.

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