Easter was cold, but the sun was shining brightly. Our plan for the day was to celebrate with Dad. I reminded Mike we needed to get there early in the likely event we’d have to get Dad dressed, or rather re-dressed. Lately, even when the aids get him up and about, he goes back to his room and gets undressed by himself and getting him to put his clothes back on is quite a process.
As I suspected, Dad was not ready for an Easter luncheon. He wasn’t even out of bed, and didn’t want to get out of bed. We started our negotiations.
“Get up, Dad, and we’ll have an Easter dinner together.”
“No, why don’t we have it in here?”
“No, it’s a lovely day. Get dressed and we’ll go to the dining room together.”
“You go without me.”
“Dad, we came to be with you. Going without you defeats the whole purpose.”
“Oh. Okay.” But he makes no move to get up.
“It’s Easter, Dad. I’ve made you a present.”
“Yep. But you have to get up and get dressed to get it.”
“Let me see what it is first.”
He smiled. It was going to be a good day. So good, in fact, that when he got up he as able to dress himself. The aids came in to get him to the dining room and were delightfully surprised that he was almost ready to go. Dad joked with them and when they left he told me he had a strategy to make all the staff like him. If only he remembered that strategy when he got angry and threw things at them. But today, for now, he was in good form and we went to the dining room together and joined another patient whose family was not able to be with her.
The conversation around the table was disjointed. Dad was deep into childhood memories, our table companion had developed certain coping mechanisms to cover her memory loss and both were chatting away about different things and were at peace. The sun shone brightly in the large room, we shared a meal together, and calm reigned for the day. I found great joy in that. When dealing with dementia, finding joy is vital.
For those of you in the Western tradition - hope you had a Happy Easter. For those of you who celebrate Passover, Shalom! May your Pesach overflow with happiness! For those of you in the Orthodox tradition who will celebrate Easter this weekend, Kaló pásha ...Happy Greek Easter!
May you be blessed. May you find peace.
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.