Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Excerpt

The minute I moved in with Dad, I began living in a sociological and behavioral study. When I could think dispassionately as a caregiver, the whole experience was fascinating. When I grew too emotionally involved, it was devastating. After years of living with Dad as a child, I was painfully familiar with his behaviors, mannerisms, and attitudes. When I became his caregiver, I saw just how much things had changed. There were remnants of my father, a skeleton of beliefs and behavior. But overlaying that, like a skin, was an interesting new layer of mannerisms and ways of behaving. My father was a whole new man; together we would learn new things, develop a new relationship and have adventures I never could have anticipated.

“This shopping cart must be Communist, it always pulls to the left!” Dad said, with a sly grin, in the middle of shopping at Safeway.
“Yeah, you’re right. Maybe it’s a democratic cart,“ I said, bagging up some fruit. I heard this every single time we went shopping, often several times in the same trip. There were multiple carts with bad wheels at the store and Dad always said his line like it was the first time he’d thought of it and always with the same grin. I knew it was repetitive, and not particularly clever, but Dad had become a jokester, something once deeply buried within him, and I was all for encouraging it.
It was remarkable what stayed and what went with this illness. An incredibly modest man became someone who scratched himself and urinated unashamedly in public. A shy, reserved man began flirting with women young and old, suggesting they go out with him. The most mundane memories had become the piers of his mind, while the vital information sloshed uneasily between them, like water. Perhaps it only seemed that way because he talked constantly about the unimportant things in a bid to remember them, to hold on to them. The fact that he was an engineer deeply defined him. Several times a day, he regaled me with stories about flying in an empty jet with Boeing test pilots, tweaking the flight systems he designed, yet he rarely spoke about my mother. Was it because he didn’t remember her? Or because he did and wanted to keep the memory close to himself?

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