Contributed by Jim Duchene of San Clemente, California. He and his wife are caregivers for his 95-year-old father, who is in the early stage of Alzheimer’s. Jim approaches this phase of caregiving with a sense of humor—apparently he inherited it.
I’ve said it before, and I don’t mind saying it again: My wife’s a saint.
So when she runs into the kitchen worried about my father, I have to listen, even though I’m in the middle of reading the Sports Section of our city’s fine newspaper and drinking a nice hot cup of gourmet coffee, my only indulgence.
“Your dad,” she says, breathlessly.
“What about my dad?” I ask, when she doesn’t get past her initial proclamation. I can see she’s having a problem putting it into words. “Is he…uh…alive?”
I felt I had to ask. I knew my father wasn’t dead. If he had been, my wife wouldn’t have been worried, she would have been hysterical. As ornery and cantankerous as he is, the only alternative to his living with us is something we dread.
“Yes, he’s alive, but when he didn’t get up for breakfast this morning, I thought I’d check in on him,”she slowly explains, “and he says he’s dead.”
“Dead?” It’s more of an exclamation than a question. My father gets plenty of attention from his daughter-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but it has never stopped him from trying to get more. Still, saying he’s dead is a stretch, even for my father.
He recently had to move out of the the father-in-law house we built for him on our property and into the main house. But when we talked about renting his cottage, Dad vetoed the idea. I asked him why.
“Because I might want to move back in,” he answered. We both know this will never happen. My father is no longer independent, but it’s important for him to believe he is.
I knock on my father’s door, and he tells me to come in. “Dad, my lovely wife, your daughter-in-law, says you think you’re dead.”
“That’s right,” my father answers. “I’m dead.”
“What makes you think that?”
“I must be dead,” he insists. “When I woke up this morning, nothing hurt.”