My dad would have turned 85 on Monday. It’s been several years now since his death, and the milestones are starting to become less likely to imagine.
My father has one sister who has lived into her 80s, but most of his family died in their 70s or younger. His immediate family survived the brutalities of WWII so they’re a hardy bunch for sure. Dad made it to 79, and was just 4 months shy of his 80th birthday.
But it’s difficult to imagine my dad at 85. A smoker since his teens, who was diagnosed with COPD and emphysema, those conditions would likely have taken a great toll on him by now, and perhaps he’d be tied to an oxygen machine. He definitely would have hated that. And would he have become so frail as to need a wheelchair? That’s another thing he would’ve loathed. The man loved to walk in a long, fast, striding gait. This was a major problem when he developed dementia, because of his tendency to wander.
So all in all, I’m at peace with the fact that Dad’s not around to be an octogenarian. If I’ve learned anything over the last several years, life isn’t about reaching a certain age but the quality of your day-to-day living.
Since Dad’s birthday is close to Easter this year, I thought it was appropriate to include the one Easter photo I have of us together.
Easter makes me think of eggs, of course, and how my dad avoided them like the plague. He feared having a high cholesterol level. Recent studies have debunked many of the previous reported links between egg consumption and high cholesterol, but when I was growing up in the 1970s-1980s, it was a big health focus.
As I got a little bit older and a tiny bit wiser, I thought it was strange that my dad would worry so much about eating one measly egg but smoked a pack or more of cigarettes each day. Surely the coffin nails would kill him via lung cancer before he developed heart disease.
We were both wrong. Despite the decades of smoking and the decades of egg aversion, Alzheimer’s claimed my dad’s life.
It made me think about how often our fears are misguided. We worry about x, when it’s really y that’s getting ready to do harm.
Fear is a valuable self-preservation tool, but it can also hold us back from our potential.
With both dementia and cancer prevalent in my family, I do think about what I eat and other lifestyle choices probably more than the average person.
But I also know I could get hit by a bus on my way to work.
There’s a balance there somewhere, everything in moderation, as the saying goes.
At least I’m going to enjoy my eggs.
Easter makes me reflect on pleasant childhood memories. I wasn’t big on dressing up, but I guess Mom managed to finagle a dress on me for some Easter photos. I’m glad that she did, because I do love this photo.
Easter makes me think of lovely springtime weather, and plastic eggs filled with jelly beans. I can still remember the scent they had. I remember racing through grass looking for hidden eggs at hunts at the local park.
Happy Easter for those who celebrate, both religious and secular versions of the holiday. I know that this is a holiday of hope and renewal for many. Those are two concepts we don’t often associate with Alzheimer’s and dementia. But as caregivers and family members of those with dementia, we need all of the hope we can muster.
I remember going on a few Easter egg hunts as a kid. I believe we usually went to the one at the neighborhood park and I think we went to a hunt at the shopping mall one year. Dad didn’t mind taking us to these kiddie events, though he always lurked far away from the festivities, smoking behind a tree patiently. As a kid perhaps I would have preferred a more hands-on father who became excited about plastic eggs and jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, but as an adult, I totally understand his indifference. At least Mom was there with enough enthusiasm for the both of them.
I’ve written previously about our humble but pleasant Easter family traditions but I also remember Easter egg hunts in our apartment. Dad would be roped into helping, though I doubt he put much effort into it, which was a bonus for me! To be fair, it was pretty difficult to hide anything in our small living quarters, but Mom could get pretty creative. I remember enjoying these at-home Easter egg hunts even more than the public ones. (Well let’s face it, since I was an only child I had no competition at home!)
I don’t have any bad memories of Easter. The holiday just floated by in a sweet haze.
As a kid, I enjoyed Easter quite a bit. Mom and I would make an Easter basket together, filling the pastel-colored plastic eggs with jelly beans and chocolate eggs wrapped in foil. We would also color eggs with various dye and decoration kits.
Dad would usually go to church. Mom and I didn’t usually attend church service with him, but I do remember as a small child carefully holding a palm leaf in the back seat of the car, cradling it as if it was a rare piece of china that might shatter at any moment, so I did attend Palm Sunday service with Dad at some point. I also remember asking one year why Dad had ashes on his forehead and being given a simplified definition of Ash Wednesday.
Dad usually avoided eating eggs, fearing their high levels of cholesterol. (I always found this ironic, since he was a lifelong smoker.) But Mom could usually coax Dad into having one of the brightly dyed boiled eggs for Easter Sunday breakfast. I would place the eggs in the little cardboard holders, labeled “Mom” and “Dad.” I usually picked out a green-colored egg for Dad, since he was Irish. We usually had something sweet with the eggs, like cinnamon rolls or blueberry muffins.
Easter memories for me are warm and bright, just like the spring season.