A cruise of a lifetime
It’s hard to know exactly when my father’s Alzheimer’s disease began (“What’s your name, again?”), but when he became obsessed with the Reader’s Digest sweepstakes — and magazines such as White Water Rafting and Muscle Mania started avalanching through the mail slot — we were mildly amused. When he began handing out money, we decided to ask for his Power of Attorney.
Dad strenuously objected. He was 78 years old. My brother said to him, “But what if you go ‘ga-ga’?”
“That,” my father bellowed, “is a pleasure we shall have to enjoy when the time comes!”
And we soon came to experience those pleasures.
It was perhaps hardest on Mom, who listened patiently to his hourly, wistful bleats to go somewhere warm. He reminisced about bluebells in the spring of his English youth, and lived in the memory of his Navy days in the South Pacific. So we cooked up a plan to give Mom a break.
Our plan was this: one of us would accompany Dad on a week-long cruise to the Caribbean. (In truth, we drew straws, and my youngest brother got the short one.)
Our thinking was that it would cost about the same as a week in respite care* but be much more fun for Dad. And, on the confines of a ship, Dad could wander all day in a circle, but never get completely lost. At night, in their cabin, my brother would prop a chair against the door so if Dad tried to leave he would bump into it and either sit down or go back to bed.
Luckily, it worked like a charm.
My brother called Mom mid-way through the week from a payphone in the Virgin Islands. “How’s your father?” she asked anxiously.
“I’ll let him tell you himself,” he said, “He’s right here!”
Dad got on the phone. Mom asked if he was having a good time. “Oh, indeed!” he said happily, “We’ve seen Hong Kong and Singapore and all of South America and right now we’re flying over Brazil. We should be landing in London any minute!”
“You see, your brother wanted to see Greece — but we managed to hook up again, so it worked out just fine!”
I asked my brother if Dad was this confused all week.
“Yep,” he said, “On the ship he spent all day going from one deck chair to another, unfolding and refolding everybody’s towels. If a passenger tried to object, he would ask how far we were from Borneo. Some of them just blinked; others backed away. Some just mumbled ‘Oh, about 8,000 miles’.”
My brother laughed. “But you know what I was thinking?”