Sandy Turner mug

Sandy Turner

Dad looked defeated as he sat at the table with his head in his hands. Even when I sat next to him, he wouldn’t take his eyes off the spot on the floor he was staring at.

“Dad,” I said, shaking his shoulder. “It’s Sandy.”

His eyes met mine, and he said, “So what.”

Dementia stole his thought process, and most of the time he was happy once he forgot we had moved him into a nursing home, which thankfully only took a couple of days.

But on this particular day, Dad was visibly angry. Although he wouldn’t speak to me the entire time I was there, I could guess where the frustration was coming from. Spring had finally arrived, and he couldn’t get out the door without the alarm going off and someone bringing him back in.

Even though I knew he was where he needed to be, my heart longed for the days we’d sit at his picnic table watching the birds and enjoying the weather. I miss hearing his stories, even when they eventually turned more into fairy tales than truth. Dad couldn’t verbalize his feelings, but deep down I was sure he blamed me for not being able to go outside at his leisure.

This spring mood was the opposite of when he lived at home. During the winter months, he’d become depressed after cabin fever settled in, but after moving into the nursing home, he was happiest during the cold months being inside surrounded by his new family.

An hour before lunch, Dad was already in the dining room, so two other residents decided to join us. They knew Dad’s conversation skills were nearly gone, so they’d take the opportunity in having someone new to share stories with. I had no idea if their tales were real or make-believe, but I loved to listen just the same.

Once the men started in on war stories, Dad perked up and began arranging and rearranging his utensils, folding and unfolding his napkin and lining up packs of sugar on the table. Eventually the staff brought lemonade to go with their lunch, and within two minutes, Dad drank his while the gentleman on the right spilled half of his on his lap and the other one desperately needed to blow his nose.

By the time I got back to the table with a towel and Kleenex, they were hooting and hollering about an old Bing Crosby song they used to love, and even Dad was smiling. These little irritants in life, such as lemonade-soaked trousers or a runny nose, didn’t seem to faze these men as their worlds now revolved around the past instead of the present.

Lesson learned — don’t worry over spilled milk or, in this case, lemonade.

Sandy Turner is a mom, grandma, former caretaker and retired journalist living in Missouri who writes a weekly column about home, family relationships and keeping positive during challenging times.

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