The day before Easter was truly glorious with temperatures in the seventies and lots of sunshine. I spent most of the day doing yard work and when it was time to get cleaned up, Mike and I decided this would be a good day to take Dad out to dinner. We would celebrate Easter on Saturday since Sunday was supposed to be cooler and raining.
Dad, of course, had no idea it was Easter weekend. But he was having a good day and was happy to see us. He was willing to go out to dinner with us, so Mike signed him out and we tucked him into the car, buckled his seat belt, and we were off. The last time we took him out for dinner was to Olive Garden. He and Mom loved the Tuscan soup they serve but it was obvious that the crowds, the menus, and the attentive servers were overwhelming Dad. Since our goal was to have a pleasant and celebratory experience, I guided the car to Bob Evans.
While it’s not the first place that comes to mind when celebrating a holiday, it is smaller, quieter (at least on a Saturday afternoon), and easier for a dementia patient to navigate. Our waitress picked up that Dad had problems ordering and graciously worked around that. Dad got his burger and coffee and was happy. While we had the same conversation over and over, I was able to inject humor and keep Dad laughing and having a good time. Mike was greatly relieved.
I had brought my barber kit with me in the hopes of convincing Dad to let me give him a trim when we got back to the apartment. He was getting shaggy and we’d asked the aids not to give him trims anymore because it really upsets him. In his mind, he thinks people are shoving themselves into his apartment to sell him things and he’s agitated for days. Happily, during dinner Dad asked if we could stop and buy a scissors for him to trim his mustache. I told him I brought a kit to do the job when we got back and no coaxing was necessary.
All in all, it was a good day which made me so happy for Mike. He’s experiencing what I experienced when I was caring for my mother. When with other people, my mom and now Dad can be all smiles and very charming. But when I was alone with Mom she would be impossible. Dad is doing that to Mike each day when he stops in after work. He can be very unpleasant, agitated and demanding. There are times he accuses Mike of lying about Mom Kemper or about Dad’s memory and it wears on my husband. This day and outing was a gift and we appreciate it.
After we said our goodbyes, Mike and I were walking to the car together. I mentioned how nice it was that Dad had such a good day. Mike hugged me to his side. “You’re good medicine for him,” he said, and kissed my cheek.
With those moments of encouraging one another, we keep moving ahead.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.