Celebrate a Memory

This Father’s Day past I went to the card section of Target to find a card to send to my father.  Now cards are difficult for me to buy in general because I really don’t go in for the sappy ones, the cards with rude comments about somebody’s age (or with jokes about putting out fires), I steer clear of political jokes unless I am very sure of the recipients views; I don’t like cards with really long poems, or humor that is not humorous (to me).

Every once in a while you really hit it and find the perfect card with the right amount of funny to send to the intended recipient.  I have been known to buy cards ahead of time if I find one that I think would be especially appreciated by someone I know.

But one thing I discovered this time was how difficult it felt finding a card for my father who has dementia.

A wordy card really felt wrong.  I wasn’t sure how well he would respond to some of the humorous cards (not grasping the humor).  A really busy card seemed like it might just be too much.

I settled on a card that had some camping images on it and talked about memories.

My family spent many years camping as I was growing up.  In fact, I saw much of this country during yearly summer vacations where we would pack up the tent and hit the road for a month at a time.  We traveled through many of the lower 48 during my childhood seeing what must have been amazing things!  Of course kids rarely appreciate much about that kind of thing and we often joked that we had seen more churches in the country than any human could imaging seeing.  We were not allowed to miss even one site on our trips between campsites as we journeyed across the country.  (I think this is why today I most appreciate vacations where I go and deposit myself one time and enjoy the outings from my home base).

Dad and I also camped together twice on our own.  The intention on the first trip was to sleep in hammocks (enclosed).  I’m sure we were in a state park somewhere; to me it felt very remote and as soon as we zipped into our separate hammocks I started to hear everything in the woods around me.  Suffice it to say that we ended up heading home in the wee hours so that we could both get a little sleep!

The next trip is one that was more successful and one that we came to refer to as the ‘Burnt Popcorn Trip’.  I think you might guess that there was some burned Jiffy Pop on that outing; Jiffy Pop warns about popping over an open fire but we decided to live dangerously and enjoyed the popcorn that wasn’t so burned.  We camped in a tent together that night so of course the noises in the woods were less spooky.

So my Father’s Day card allowed me to share those memories with my father.  When I called him on Father’s Day we chuckled about the trips and shared what memories we both had from those trips.  It was a good conversation which is not always possible with Dad these days.  It made me realize what I need to focus on with Dad on future visits or phone chats.

I need to share a memory.  I need for him to share his back.  While he is not always able to keep the present clearly in focus, his distant memories are still pretty good.  He mixes up time lines, but that’s OK.

He remembered the burned popcorn and how we convinced ourselves that a camper a couple of sites away was somebody we sort of knew (though we never went over to see for sure).  We shared a chuckle which we don’t get to do very often anymore.  I think the call left him feeling a bit uplifted and I know it felt nice for me.

I will continue to try to pull those memories from our past out so that we can reminisce and relive the better times.  It is something he can still do so I need to take advantage of that while he still can.

Sharing memories really can be a way to stay connected to somebody who is slipping away….we should enjoy it while we can……

For more about reminiscing check out:  Reaching Them Beyond the Dementia with Reminiscing  

On the journey with you…….Kathy

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6 responses to “Celebrate a Memory

  1. I think this is a great message. I lived with my grandma, who has dementia and Alzheimer’s for over a year. All I can say is that I have many, many stories about the ups and downs. You can check them out here:

    http://caseykurlander.wordpress.com/category/grandma/

    Thanks!
    Casey

    • Then I am sure you understand how difficult it can be to maintain the relationship once the dementia progresses to a certain point. You have to make the connections where and when you can! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. So glad you had a good Father’s Day memory with your dad. My FIL is in the advanced stages of Alzheimers, and rarely has even the distant memories to recall. But he can still point a pool cue in the right direction and hit a ball. (Any ball will do, not just the white one!) So when we visit him at his nursing home, we always play a game of pool. We hear him laugh, watch him participate, and take home another memory.

  3. One of my cousins (I have many) has started a family facebook group for relatives to share family stories and memories. Since my mom doesn’t do computer, I print them out and read them to her when I visit. This might be a way for you to come up with more family memories to share with your dad. Just a thought.

    • What a wonderful idea! Though I have a very small and un-Facebookie type family, I hope others will see this suggestion! My mother has quite a few photo albums at the house. I have encouraged her to take one to leave in Dad’s room and use those as launching points for talking about past adventures! (and possibly to provide other visitors with something to ask about!)

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