On Saturday, I visited my father at the nursing home. When he saw me, he called me Becky, and when I told him I wasn’t Becky, he called me Willinda, and when I told him I wasn’t Willinda he said, “C’mon, now.”
“No fooling, dad. I’m neither one of those crazy daughters of yours. I’m Jenni, you’re youngest daughter. Your favorite daughter, remember?
“Yeah, my favorite…,” he says with a gravelly laugh.
I guess I’m lucky he doesn’t think I’m my brother, and therefore look like a man.
It was as if he had never heard the name Jenni before in his life. His lip began to quiver and he looked away from me. I decide it’s better if I stop telling him I’m Jenni. It upsets and confuses him. I’m sure it would help if I’d read all those books I bought about Alzheimer’s, but I can’t. I’m still in denial.
So, I tell him, “Dad, you’re a famous poet,” and he smirks, “I am? Well, no one has greased my palm yet.”
I tell him they will grease it soon and he asks who he is famous among.
I tell him something believable: All of Oklahoma.
I lie to my father, because the last time I told him he had become famous for his poetry, he smiled bigger and happier than he had in five long years. He will never know the truth, and won’t remember he’s famous tomorrow anyway. I live for whatever joy I can bring, even if it lasts only 30 seconds and even if it’s a lie.
I say, “Dad, do you remember Wanda Jackson? She’s been voted into the Oklahoma Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame.”
“Wanda Jackson, the country singer?” he asks.
“Yeah, rock-a-billy,” I say.
My father remembers Wanda Jackson, but he doesn’t remember me.
Then, I hold his cold hand while the aid comes in and calls him the most annoying nickname ever, and I tell my dad I want to bring him home to live with me and he says, “But, I have all these responsibilities here to the Navy.”
And, I realize, my father is aboard ship and Jenni hasn’t even been born yet.