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The White Pages: Lesson Gifts

The White Pages:   Lesson Gifts

6 years, 6 months ago Bobbe White

Dad/Irvie turned 93 Sunday. It was a simple occasion. His food is pureed now, which sort of blows the whole cake ‘n candle thing out of the water. Alzheimer’s. Grrrr. Cake, candles, gifts and photos are just window dressing we can do without. His needs are small. Our quest for dignity is large. We get that in huge doses, at the Illinois Veterans Home. They love Dad/Irvie, awake or asleep. And that is enough for me.

“Hi Dad!” is how it always begins. “Hi Babe!” he said back. “YES! This is good!” I thought. “He knows me today.” Rationally, and my sister, Cathy, reminded me, “He calls everybody Babe!” I know. He always has. He would walk in the bank and call his favorite employees, “Babe” or “Doll”. It wasn’t creepy, nor was it a slur. It was a term of endearment at many levels. The nurses say that when they get a “Babe or Doll” from Dad in the morning, they know it’s going to be a good day. Or his once a week awake day. Hence, he’s become known as “Once-a-week-Irv.” It fits his former sense of wry humor very well.

I told him it was his birthday. He looked puzzled at the mention of 93. But the fact that he was awake to hear it at all was the thing. He sleeps a lot now, but he didn’t sleep through his birthday breakfast. And that was enough for me.

Cathy visited later. He was awake for her visit too. We considered this a good day, for sure. We tacked a couple of birthday cards on his wall. I’m not sure why, but in lieu of all the other birthday bells and whistles, it seemed like a festive thing to do, even though he can’t see that far, nor read anymore. Okay, it made little sense, but it’s hard not to mark the day with a little something.

Cathy and I shared our visit experience and the agony of the process, not to mention the longevity. It’s not that we want him to go, but what is the purpose of his existence in this state? It’s confusing, heart wrenching and overwhelming. Then I pulled out of my you-know-what, this idea. I texted it to her. “I think that Dad’s final gift (or lesson?) to us is for me to have patience with his situation. Everything runs its course for a reason, even if it’s not what we understand. Maybe his gift to you is to be stronger.”

She texted back, “Good thought…I’ll hold on to that.” So look who’s giving the gift on his birthday. And that’s enough for me.



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