I took dad to the good Doctor S. again yesterday. All the way there he gave me the same lecture about how he had driven these roads many times and how he used to know how to drive there. When we got to the office, he asked the name of the doctor, so I pointed to the door. “Ah, yes, I see,” he said, repeating the name. Then, once we were inside, he asked at least ten more times, “What is her name again?”
The nurse told us that she was running late because she had been making a hospital visit, so she took dad back to take his vitals and to draw some blood. Then we sat and waited.
As we sat there, he remembered how he had been “coming here for years”, and how he used to “come with Liesma.” This isn’t true, of course. He has now started this new habit of referring to Liesma as “mom” or “mother.” It took me a minute to figure out who he was talking about. And now, when he talks about my siblings, he refers to them as “our children,” as if I am one of the familial patriarchs. Everything feels a bit upside down.
When Dr. S finally got to the examination room, she hadn’t really read his chart nor gotten the updates from the hospital. When she finally looked and realized how serious it was, her mood got so dark so quickly. She was apologetic and asked if there was anything she could do. We were talking about dad’s heart and how well he was doing for how weak it was, and dad was kind of listening. At one point he said, “I know you are talking about me, but I do not know what you are saying.” He kept asking about his medicines and he wanted to know which ones he was on. He didn’t seem concerned about his health at all.
The most powerful part of the whole experience was the helplessness on Dr. S’s face when she asked, “Is there anything I can do for you, Jeff?” I was just sitting there, looking at my phone, trying not to get choked up thinking about it all.
Then we drove to Trader Joes, and dad bought some cheese and meat for sandwiches. I swear, he has more cheese and meet for sandwiches than anyone could ever want. He got a little lost looking for a bottle of wine, and decided not to buy anything.
When we got home, he helped me learn some Latvian and we talked about the future. I have been trying to interview him each day with a different topic, jogging his memory. Last night, he was playing solitaire, like he does, and I asked him how he learned how to play and to share some memories about playing cards. He talked about one “old guy” who used to play with them that they called “The Cheater.” I don’t recall anyone by that nickname, so I’m wondering if it’s a real memory?