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Anchor Aweigh

Anchors Aweigh, my boys
Anchors Aweigh
–From the song of the United States Navy

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.

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. Linda Pendleton

    That must be so difficult for you to be going through. Give your love and some part of him will know.

  2. Cari

    I remember taking my daughters to see my grandmother, who had alzheimers. She panicked and ran from me down the hall, telling a nurses aid “these aren’t my people”. I will always have that phrase stuck in my head, but I try to block it out by the many, many years of good memories before she forgot my name.

  3. Betty

    Thank you for sharing, reminded me of my great grandmother. She was tough as nails. I didn’t believe anything was wrong until she called me to come and help her get the goats off the Bingo Hall roof. Thank god she thought to call me, by the time I made it to her place she was crossing a busy street to get the “goats” down.

    I miss her

  4. Daddy Forever

    My mom doesn’t know my name either. In fact, she talks to people in her mind most of the time I see her.

  5. jen

    @TO ALL – thank you for sharing your stories. Surprisingly, they really help. And, thank you, all, for your generosity, kindness. I hope the next time I walk into his room he calls out to me, too, DEBRA.

    @BILLY – What ship is he on? =…( I wish I knew. Maybe he could tell me all about it.

  6. Debra W

    Oh sweetie, I can just feel the pain in your heart and I wish that I could give you a huge hug. I was listening to Maria Shriver Schwartzaneger(Sp?) speak a couple of days ago, and she described a situation much like yours. Like you, she began accepting the different names that her father chose for her. Sometimes, when he asked who she was, she would make things up. One day he was having an argument with her because their was loud traffic passing by, but he insisted that it was water. She said that she finally just gave in and agreed that it was water, but then something happened. As she began to listen to the sounds, she heard water, too.

    I am so sad for you, Jen. You are a gentle soul who has to be deeply effected by your father’s illness. My prayer is that the next time you walk into your dad’s room, he will reach out and call you Jen.

    Love and hugs,

  7. wildbillyelliott

    The only ship I can remember Dad telling me that he was on was the USS CARTER HALL. I did some research on the ship (GOOGLE), and there is a commissioned US NAVY SHIP called the USS CARTER HALL. It is not the one Dad served on, though. The one he served on was commissioned during WWII, and later decommissioned. It was then re-commissioned, and that’s when Dad served on it. I don’t know the names of the other ships (many) that he served on (sadly).

    Oddly, the name “CARTER HALL” is from a comic book charachter, if you can believe that. check it out.

  8. Territory Mom

    I wished I had known your dad was a fan of Wanda Jackson. She was on the Marty Stuart Show a couple of weeks ago. She is so cool. Your dad will remember you when he gets out of the Navy. He is on an amazing journey right now.

  9. wildbillyelliott

    Tears streaming

  10. Poetikat

    Oh. I feel your pain. My dad recognized me until the end, but the confusion – the where am I?, the why are we here?, the what’s happening? The sadness in his eyes…I understand the lies, but who are they really for? Ourselves, I think.
    Somewhere, deep down in that muddled brain, Jenni, you are STILL there. Really.
    I feel your pain.


  11. ReRe

    it’s so hard when your parent doesn’t recognize you. my mom was that way toward the very in and it broke my heart. i would get so angry that she didn’t know who i was, or that she would remember james but not my brothers. but then i stopped getting mad and let her call me whatever she wanted because i just wanted to hear her voice.

  12. John Hayes

    It’s such a tough condition to deal with. My father didn’t have Alzheimers, but his Parkinson’s disease eventually developed into a very similar state. Tho he knew me the last time I saw him (which was about 5 months before he passed away) he didn’t really know or understand where he was. & when my sister visited him about a month later he apparently didn’t know her.

    I think trying to bring immediate joy is best, without trying to orient your father too much. It’s a hard situation– hang in there.

  13. Yogi♪♪♪

    I’m so sorry.

  14. le @ thirdontheright

    The human touch / companionship is of more value than all the words in the world Jen – and that’s what you bring in buckets loads to your dad. Of course it it hard that he does not know you, but you know him so it is glass half full.

    I am not being blaise here – we went thru all of this with nana – my mum was her ‘you’ and thru all the grief there was still the fact that it was her mum, just like he is your dad.

    Stay strong honey le xoxo

  15. Naomi Munn

    Oh, I hear you and I am with you and I have tears in my eyes. Bless you.

  16. miruspeg

    Ah Jen I am sooo glad I started blogging because if I hadn’t I would not of had the privilege of getting to know you and love you.
    I know that sounds over the top but reading posts like this warms my soul.

    I was talking to AVT Coach on the phone the other day and in unison we both said what a delightful person you were.

    Take care

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