CHAPTER ONE, CHRISTMAS EVE
The father: Sweet but confused 77 year old man, descending into the hell of Alzheimers
The stepmother: She used to be irritating, but now that she is the only other sane one in the family, she's like an island of peace among the madness.
The son: Evidently he lives on another planet. I wish I knew which one. I would describe his personality as mentally slow, with hints of autism and just plain cluelessness thrown.
The daughter: That would be me. I think you know me already.
The daughter's husband: All I can say is I thank my lucky stars for him, because without him I might just might lose my mind.
The grandson: Ditto what I said about the husband.
We arrive at my parents house. The evening opens with my father expressing his delighted surprise that we are there. On Christmas Eve. Yes, shocking that we are there, since we are there every single Christmas Eve. He repeats this comment no less than 22 times during the four hours we are at the house. "What a pleasant surprise it is to have you all here."
Before dinner we listen to Christmas carols. We put on the Elizabeth Schwarzkopf Christmas album. Ms. Schwarzkopf is my Dad's all-time favorite soprano. Although this woman has been dead for God knows how long, she lives on at our home every Christmas. I've heard this woman sing Silent Night at least 200 times. Dad can't remember who Elizabeth Schwarzkopf is anymore, although he comments at three minute intervals throughout the entire album that this singer "Sure has a lovely voice!" "Yes Dad, she certainly does," I say.
My husband mentions that Elizabeth Schwarzkopf was Hitler's favorite soprano as well. A fact that my Dad has mentioned every Christmas for the last thirty years. My husband's comment spurred this conversation.
Dad: Now, he's not alive any more, is he?
Husband: Uhh, no, no he's not, and that's a good thing.
Dad: Oh...was he a dirty player?
Husband: What? (Thinking fast)
Dad: Was he a dirty player?
Husband: Oh yes, I would definitely say he was a very dirty player.
Later, my oblivious brother tries to engage my Dad with questions like "Gee Dad, do you still make that Caesar salad dressing with raw egg?" Of course my Dad responds with the blankest of blank looks. HELLO! This man can't remember what he said two minutes ago. Do you think he even remembers that he EVER made Caesar salad? The answer is no, an absolute and resounding NO, you moron. (Okay, I realize he's not a moron, he's just mentally slow, but I forget sometimes.)
Later still, while opening presents, I note that my brother has given my Dad a book to read. And it's not just any book, it's a book about the nautical tactics of pirates. My Dad used to be a sailor, but that feels like a million years ago. That book should get some good use...as a doorstop.
At the dinner table my stepmother places my Dad at the far end of the table, away from where their two yappy dogs usually sit, so that Dad can't give them food from the dinner table. For the most part my stepmother accepts the gravity of my Father's situation, but every once in a while she tries to pretend that life is still normal. She desperately wants to think if she tells my Dad not to feed the dogs at the table, he will actually remember not do it. Alas, she is always disappointed. Midway through dinner, as my Dad is shuffling food down to the dogs, my stepmother snaps. "Denny!! WE DO NOT FEED THE DOGS AT THE TABLE!!" My Dad looks up, shocked, and snarls back "WHAT?!" As his wife gathers the dogs and pulls them back to their "stay" spot, my Dad hunches his shoulders up and gives her the finger. Good times.
At the end of the evening my Dad proclaims he is going to bed, and gives me a hug and kiss good night. He goes into the kitchen and says good night to his wife. Then he comes back into the living room and gives me a hug and a kiss goodnight and goes upstairs. Five minutes later he comes back downstairs to give me a hug and a kiss goodnight. We left before he had a fourth opportunity.
On the way home my husband commented on what a circus my family has become. Yes, circus is the right word.
Stay tuned for chapter two: Christmas weekend and the husband's side of the family. In which three biopsies fail to reveal exactly what kind of cancer is growing like Morning Glory in my mother-in-law's nasal cavities.