Sandy Turner is the specialty publications editor for The Examiner. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-350-6314.
When someone you love loses their ability to express the sentiments you need to hear, it’s the little things that you hold onto and embrace. Dad’s dementia doesn’t keep him from functioning independently as he lives each day in the present, although once that moment has passed it doesn’t become a memory.
More often than not when I stop by, I’ll find him looking through his favorite magazines, reading the stories again and again. He’ll tell me about the article he just read and minutes later the information is gone.
Months ago he gave me a folded up page from a magazine and said that I should give it to my boyfriend and tell him that it’s a surprise for me.
He ordered me not to look at it, but of course I did as soon as I left.
It was an advertisement for a necklace with a gold heart engraved with the words “A daughter is of greater worth than all the precious jewels on earth.” Even though I knew that Dad would forget this thought as soon as I left, I was still touched that he had found printed words that expressed his feelings.
I carried that magazine page around with me for several weeks, as I couldn’t remember the last time Dad had ever been that sentimental, even before he had dementia.
When I showed it to my boyfriend he agreed that it was the thought that counts because we knew that Dad would have no recollection of the necklace or its beautiful engraved saying. Eventually I threw it away but secretly wished that it would have been a gift from Dad years ago when he was, in my eyes, the man with all the answers and know-how.
He knew it was Christmas time because I had put up his tree and decorations, but he had been constantly nagging me to take them down, as he thought the holidays were over. When my boyfriend and I walked in with his presents, he was confused but quickly started getting into the spirit of things.
His days are filled with bird and weather watching so we bought him a new feeder and a new fangled thermometer. He was amazed that the thermometer could be outside and a digital readout could sit on his table to tell him the exact temperature.
After Dad unwrapped his gifts, I began my routine of cleaning the kitchen and vacuuming the floors while they sat and watched for incoming birds and temperature changes, when Dad tapped me on the shoulder and presented me with a gift, wrapped and tagged: to Sandy, from Dad.
I recognized my boyfriend’s handwriting and wondered what he was up to. I could see the wonderment on Dad’s face as well. The tiny box held the heart necklace from the magazine as these two wonderful men in my life gave me a gift of thoughtfulness and love.
Thanks, Dad, for those words I’d longed to hear, and thanks to my boyfriend who helped him remember how to say them.