Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The other man in my life

My dad celebrated a birthday today (some of you may remember him as the man with the ganja hat). I called him at home, hoping hard that he'd know who I was. So far, he hasn't forgotten, but it's possible. He has a slow-progressing yet debilitating disease that eats away at his memory and makes his hands tremble and his legs crumble beneath him.

"Hi, Daddy," I said. I still call him that sometimes. We spoke for a bit. He sounded frail, but OK. And he laughed when I told him I was going to buy him a box of Twinkies for his birthday. It's been our joke since I was a teen; he's always been a health food nut, and Twinkies are his idea of evil incarnate.

My dad's disease kicked in right around when Max was born. Over the years, I've watched him grow weaker, his muscles no longer working the way he wanted them to, as Max struggled to make his own muscles do what he wanted them to. Sometimes, seeing what my father was going through made me angry about what had happened to Max; how was it possible a little kid could grapple with the same physical problems a man in his eighties was? I've had the same thoughts over the years anytime I've heard about an elderly person having a stroke, as Max did when he was born. A stroke is what's supposed to happen when someone's lived a good part of their life, not at the start of it.

The gap between Max's abilities and my father's has widened as Max has progressed and my Dad has gotten less able-bodied. I feel lucky he is still around, and lucky to have been raised by him. He used to constantly read newspapers and clip articles he thought would interest me, and was always finding fun activities for our family to do on weekends. Once, in college, he took us all to Vegas, where he accidentally got us tickets to an ice-skating show...with topless showgirls. Try watching that with your parents sitting next to you (Dad was too cheap to waste the money and leave). They had us later in life but even in his early fifties, my dad would race me down the block—and he'd want to win.

Tonight, Max sat on his bed and read a Thomas book to Dave, Go Train Go. He knew the words "Go Train Go" on the cover and then he prattled on, flipping the pages (great use of one finger!) and articulating what he thought the book said. My dad would have been really proud.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.


  1. I am sure your Dad IS really proud...of Max and of you.

  2. This is one of my favorite posts on LTM. I hate to break it to you never "accidentally" buy tickets to shows with topless showgirls.

  3. I love my dad, too! Your dad looks like a total charmer in his crazy hat!

    We're lucky to have parents who love us so well!


  4. God bless you & your Father. Said a prayer for him :-)

  5. So sweet!!

    I'm dying over you stuck in the topless skating show!

  6. Touching post, Ellen. Both of my grandfathers suffered with mobility issues, and one of my grandmothers had Alzheimer's. It's tough to see someone you've grown up with begin to fail, and watch the progression. Those grandparents are no longer with me, and I miss them often. How good to still have your dad to talk to, even if his memory is failing.

  7. Take memory pictures of your dad each day that you still have him. They are very helpful on those days when he will no longer be available. This helps take me through many days when I wish I had another day to talk to him about life, work, and home.


Thanks for sharing!

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