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Barbara Walking in the Valley
A weekly column for those who live and walk in Silicon Valley

by Barbara Dahlgren


Precious Memories
Column for the week of June 20-26, 2004

Precious Memories is an old gospel song with lyrics something like: “Precious memories...how they linger…how they ever flood my soul…” We all have those precious memories of loved ones who have passed away.

When we took care of my beloved, aged Great Aunt Victorie during her final year of life I remember her asking my mom, “Millie, where do you do your grocery shopping now?”

Mom said, “Piggy Wiggly!”

Then my aunt said in all seriousness, “Well, the Piggly Wiggly or the Hoggly Woggly, I guess they are all alike.” We have recalled that incident with many giggles in the years after her death. It has become a precious memory.

I think about memories a lot now that my 85-year-old dad has Alzheimer’s and is in a Veteran’s Care Facility in the Midwest. In my last article I shared what I have been learning through my dad’s illness. He has certainly had his share of what I like to call “Hoggly Woggly” moments and although some may think it sacrilegious to laugh at such antics, I find it therapeutic, healthy, and precious. My dad, whose nickname is T.J., and I have had several chuckles during his lucid moments; and my family and I have had a few about his not so lucid moments.

When I visit dad at mealtime we play a little game we call, “Name That Food!” It’s a take off on the old TV show, “Name That Tune.” You see, dad has a swallowing problem so all his food comes ground up. When it arrives it’s in these little mounds. One mound will be brownish, one yellowish, one reddish, and so on. So we joke as if to say, “I can name that food in 3 bites.” “I can name that food in one bite.” The brown mound is always some sort of meat. White is generally mashed potatoes or rice. Yellow is either corn or squash. Red can be frozen, slushy tomatoes that are easily confused with strawberries or sorbet. The most fun are the greenish mounds. They can be peas, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, cucumbers, or my all time favorite, dill pickles. Yes, there is nothing quite like a squashed up dill pickle to whet one’s appetite.

Then there was the night my dad crawled into someone else’s bed and claimed it as his own. Fortunately the other guy wasn’t in it, but it took some talking to convince dad to go back to his room.

Once when I went back to visit I thought I would give mom a treat so I took her to the movies. Mom loves old movies (Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Claudette Colbert vehicles) but she also likes war movies. (Don’t ask!) She loved Saving Private Ryan. Cold Mountain was advertised to be a Civil War movie so I thought she might like it. Well, it really didn’t focus on the war as much as it did peripheral issues. Imagine our surprise when some women in the movie stripped naked and shook their tushes on the big screen. My little church goin’ mother lost it. In a very audible voice she kept saying over and over and over, “Well, I’ve never seen such a thing!”

The next day at dad’s care facility my stepbrother, dad, and I were sitting at a table when mom recounted her horrendous experience at the movies the night before. She talked about those disgusting, naked women. My stepbrother grinned, looked at dad and said, “I don’t know, it sounds like a pretty good movie to me. What do think, T.J.?” My dad smiled really big and said, “You bethcha!” I guess some things you never forget, even with Alzheimer’s.

There are poignant moments as well. Once at bedtime my dad, in his walker, went from room to room and asked, “Is there anything I can get you before I go to bed?” He’s always had a servant’s heart.

Once they had a special, patriotic show in the Veteran’s Chapel. The man who sang the closing song, “Proud to Be an American,” did an outstanding job. My dad was sitting in the front row in his wheel chair but managed to pull himself up and applaud. He turned around to rest of the audience and motioned for them to rise, stand up. And they did. My frail, meek, little 110-pound dad led the standing ovation.

I know my dad’s days are numbered. When God brings him home, there will be precious childhood memories flooding my soul. But for some reason I think the memories of my dad’s final days might be some of the most precious ones in my heart.

“Precious father...loving mother...precious memories...scenes unfold…”

 

 

Be sure to visit this page every week to read the next edition of Walking in the Valley. You can write to the author at bdahlgren@wcgsouthbay.org.

 

 

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