Fetching my Dad

There is a keypad at the gate with the code written next to it. I've even asked my father to read the numbers when its been too dark for my failing eyes to see them. The entrance is a ground level slab porch, all readied for winter, with a salt bucket, a stuffed character sitting on a slatted and faux wrought iron bench, and dusty cream vinyl siding. As always I had to choose between the “door bell” and the “press here direct to telephone” buttons. I decided the door bell would be kinder to the addled keepers inside. After three minutes I pushed it again. Minutes later, I pushed the telephone button, which bing-bonged 10 times and quit. I wondered what was going on inside, but refused let my disparaging imagination free. I turned to the cold breeze lurking around the highly manicured grounds. I saw low-cut maiden grass, snaking arches of mulch, and everything else, flat in the damp near-frost.

I stepped graciously into the warmth and took a deep breath. I dreaded the encounter. I dreaded the lolling white-washed and well-gone heads. My inner freedom fighter sat on pangs; I had a compulsive wish to let them all go off on the journeys they'd once imagined themselves destined for. I dreaded the flowery colorfulness, the showroom boredom, the “isn't that charming” chair rails and couches and …

My father was dressed and sitting in the dining area. He hadn't had anything to eat. The room has a relatively formal feel to it. Clean with dark cherry-stained press-wood tables and chairs. The places at the tables were all identical with matching green linen and condiment assemblies. The one exception to this was that each setting had its own drinking vessel: a mug or a colorful plastic cup or a child's sippie cup. My father held a disposable plastic medicine cup, and with a confused look he asked me if he could have some water. I looked up at the one of the immigrant Caribbean caretakers and she said “Yes, of course.” My father continued to look up at me with surprise in his eyes. I'll never forget this look, probably the first time he looked as though he didn't know who I was and was maybe a little afraid of me. Even though inside I reacted with my usual selfish internal resignation to fates I ultimately, and illogically, blame on him, I refused to believe he didn't recognize me. I guess he just didn't understand why I was there. He didn't smile. I still can't help but think that he, now so much like a child, can no longer suppress his deepest feelings toward me.

jlew1973   jlew1973 wrote
on 11/30/2009 5:03:36 PM
Very well written and descriptive "moment in time" short of real life that I enjoy reading. You are subtle with your criticisms. Perfect! I got them. To answer your questions: It's not pretentious. It's not boring. And it's very compelling on many levels: you hint at the relationship you and your father had (before the dementia), the state of healthcare, and your own pov which is so vividly described, down to the "sippy cups." There's an absurdity that makes me suppress a chuckle because it isn't supposed to be funny and it's not...but I'm moved. Made uncomfortable. Think about my own ageing father and mother. Great power and restraint on your part. Thanks for sharing something so private with us. It's from your journal and journals aren't meant to be handbooks of good English. I noticed the word "compulsive" when I think you meant "compulsion." I won't forget this piece nor your father's plight and your angst (?) or whatever it is you feel. It's complex I'm sure. My best, John

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writing Humbert
I like literary fiction and hysterical realism.
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My father has dementia. This is quoted from my private journal.
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