In the last week of my father’s life (we did not know this at the time), he began singing songs non-stop all day long. The staff at the local Assisted Living Center did not know what to make of this, thus they called me and informed me.
I quickly dispatched myself over there to see what this was, what to make of it. He was indeed singing, many songs, all of which I recognized as part of my growing up with him.
Being a professional caregiver, I talked my Dad into going over to the Geriatric Assessment Center where, among other things, they gave him a standard Mental Status exam. Count backwards by 7’s, who were the last several presidents, sign your name.
He flunked all three, prompting me, when we got back in the car, to cry. This was the man who taught me math, who despite having to drop out of school in the 6th grade to support younger siblings, managed to beat me at Scrabble regularly when I was a teen.
He was singing, as I was crying. “Tiptoe through the Tulips.”
He stopped, asked me what the second verse was. I answered impatiently” “I don’t know,”I said. He smiled, then said: “Well hell then, you aren’t much better off then me”. We both laughed. It was our last real conversation. He died three days later on Thanksgiving weekend.
I now know . . . upon reflection…..that he was holding on to his mind, that he was determined not to lose his mind before death. Yep, I get that. I read stories about people taken hostage, held alone without external stimulation. They used memory to hold on to their minds. Driving through the night, on vacations, with children and Kathy sleeping, I sang gospel songs, a part of my Christian upbringing. “When peace like a river attends my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”
Here’s to you, Dad. I’ve planted the tulips. Spring will be a little late this year.