Mayonnaise and Ketchup

I went over to my parents’ place yesterday, which is a normal Saturday ritual. My Mom seemed eager for conversation, asking a lot of questions about my week and about what my kids are up to these days — and then also flipping through an album of photos from the late-1970s, making comments about the people and the decor and such. It was kind of lovely.

1980 Photo Album Pages 13

But my Dad was acting crazy. His words were a jumbled mess, though he seemed earnest in whatever he was saying. He was also very restless: sitting down, standing up, walking into the kitchen and then back into the dining room where my Mom and I were sitting. We eventually figured out that he was hungry, so I got him a snack pack from the refrigerator that had some little pieces of cheese and almonds and dried cranberries. But even after having this snack, my Dad was still restless.

Even so, my Mom and I kept talking. It’s not often that she gets into a storytelling rhythm, so I was glad to listen and ask questions to keep her going. But the whole time, my Dad was up-down-in-out. I heard some sounds in the kitchen to suggest that he was up to something, but I didn’t actually get up from the dining room table to check on him until I heard the microwave door open. And when I did go into the kitchen to check, it turned out that he was trying to fix himself another snack. But it was a weird one. He had just taken the lid off of a jar of mayonnaise and was putting the whole jar into the microwave. He also had a carton of eggs out on the counter. So, I diverted him to let me heat up a slice of leftover pizza instead of whatever mayo-egg snack his demented mind had conjured up.

Still, it was just that kind of day with my crazy old Dad.

So, when my Mom texted me today in the late afternoon, saying that there was an unexpected gap in caregiver coverage — and asking if I might be able to come over and help for a couple of hours — I was discouraged to think about trading in a little bit of down-time for an unexpected shift at my unofficial second job. Still, I packed up my stuff and headed over anyway.

Fortunately, my Dad was doing significantly better than the previous day. Still dealing with Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia, of course, but generally pleasant and physically agile (it’s crazy how much his coordination changes from day-to-day or hour-to-hour). He had some trouble expressing himself again, but my Mom and I were eventually able to deduce that this day’s restlessness was not so much about hunger but rather a sort of wanderlust. He wanted to get out of the house and see the wide world. Kerkhoven, especially (his childhood home on the edge of the prairie in central Minnesota). And while I wasn’t prepared to drive him to Kerkhoven, I was glad to take him for a ride around Kent.

As we drove, I attempted to make conversation — and I was delighted when my Dad responded in ways that suggested some degree of normalcy. We talked about the snowy weather… the foggy windshield… the buildings on the Kent State University campus (where my Dad erroneously claimed to have taken classes)… There was even a moment when my Dad said he was proud of me — for something like “continuing in the work.” My favorite moment, however, was when we stopped for dinner at a fried chicken restaurant called Raising Cane’s.

Cane's with Dad

While we were standing in line to order our food, I asked my Dad if he was “little hungry” or “big hungry.” And he said, “big hungry.” So, I ordered us each a Three-Finger Combo. I carried the conversation throughout our time at the table, but he participated by wadding up his straw wrapper and a napkin to throw at me (which is something that he also would have done twenty years ago, before the Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia set in). And through it all, he really ate like a champ. I thought there was no way that he was going to get through a Three-Finger Combo — but he did.

The only thing is that he dipped all of his food in ketchup. His fries, of course. But also his chicken fingers. And his Texas Toast. So maybe he’s just got a thing for condiments these days. Who knows? It’s hard to say exactly what’s going through his head these days, but I like to think that he felt a little bit “at home” while we ate our dinner together. Even if we were miles and miles away from Kerkhoven.

This entry was posted in Aging Parents, Family, Nostalgia, Transition, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *