Took my dad to Kewaskum today for its Village-wide rummage sale. My father is 91 and suffers Alzheimer’s. He is mighty fit and farm strong. When he’s dressed up (normally for a funeral of someone younger) people say, “Al looks like he’s ready to start a corporation.”
His appearance is deceiving; my dad is adrift in Alzheimer’s in a well-preserved body. His world resets every three seconds. Memory is definitely an issue with repetitive questions, no sense of a current timeline and you can’t say, “Do you remember this or that” … because, no…. he doesn’t.
I found he responds well to music and exercise. Rummage sales are also good therapy. We always used to go to sales together on Saturday morning.
I find it’s a good opportunity to drift back into his era – because I know he’s never going to be able to step into mine.
At the sales we gravitate to hardware, tools and farm equipment. “What’s this,” I said holding up a carpentry thingamajig. “That’s a planer,” he said. My dad was a Mr. Fix It in his prime. “How about that,” I said. “It’s a horse collar you’d put it over the back of the horses neck……” And there he goes …. it’s more words than we’ve heard in a week.
“Did you have horses when you were growing up,” I ask. “Well, yes. I’d have to get up in the morning, milk the cows, load the milk into the wagon and take it to the cheese factory in St. Cloud.”
I’ve heard the stories a million times. But now he’s in his element. It’s kind of amazing really, because otherwise he says nothing.
A couple of things about the disease – my dad doesn’t initiate conversation and when we walk from sale to sale he follows about five paces behind. I’m told that’s normal for someone with Alzheimer’s.
At each sale I hear the same comment “high prices.” It’s a hard thing to grasp, this 2015. Maybe my dad is the lucky one – stuck in his era of Happy Days, 15-cent a gallon gas, and when neighbors helped neighbors – because it’s what you did.
Today I found a 45 rpm of Elvis with The King on the sleeve. “How much change do you have in your pocket,” I asked. My dad pulled out 57 cents and handed it over. It was a good old-fashioned rummage, they took it – happy to make a sale.
We normally don’t buy much, but it’s quality time and gives my mom some freedom, even if only a couple hours.
After my small purchase, we stopped at a sale by Kewaskum’s famed Jules Dreher and then head home.
Getting out of the car my dad turned to me. The look in his eye is very distant. I ask if he was feeling OK and after somewhat of a pause he said, “You owe me 57 cents.”
I consider it a miracle. That was more than a half hour ago…. from a guy who can’t remember three seconds ago. I laughed. It’s a sign – – the rummage therapy works.
I know somebody’s in there…. it’s up to me to reach him.
I think I’ll keep my dad on the hook with that 57 cents… at least for a bit. Selfishly, maybe he’ll stay around a little while longer.