This is all my dad’s fault.
One of my earliest memories of my dad centers on wordplay. “Why did the moron put the television on the stove? He wanted to watch Milton boil.”
Dad was a bright kid. He kept, into adulthood, a savant-like ability to retain huge lists of numbers—phone numbers, baseball statistics, stock prices—and until perhaps a decade ago he could add columns of numbers in his head faster than an accountant can add them on a calculator.
Now he’s fading. He remembers being smarter than most people—at least in the ways that he was smarter than most people—and he tells people he still is (he used to be a gracious and modest person who would never be so rude). This does not go over too well in the assisted living facility where he resides, but most of the other residents eventually forgive him or, more likely, forget his little outbursts.
Alzheimer’s disease does not run in our family. Neither does cancer. We tend to be cardiac patients. My dad had a CABG some years ago, and it is common for CABG patients of that era to develop a type of vascular dementia that cardiac surgeons call pump head. My sister and I suspect that’s what is going on with our dad. This reassures us in the sense that we don’t think it’s genetic, but it really makes no difference to Dad. In terms of his decline, dementia is dementia.
Father’s Day, though, is a chance to focus on the good memories, not dwell on the prognosis. And it’s a chance to say thank you, too, for sparking my interest in words and numbers and for modeling behaviors, both good and bad, in ways that taught me how to be in the world. I have tried to adopt the good ones and avoid the bad ones, but it is up to others to decide if I have been successful in that endeavor.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
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