June 6, 2010 by
Filed under: Dementia and my father. 

The phone rang and I immediately regretted my decision to take the call. My dad’s emotion-filled voice cracked, “I’m so upset. I need to go to the store so you either come down here today or else don’t ever come here again.”

 I don’t know how to respond to the outburst, but he saves me the trouble by hanging up.

It’s not his fault, I think for the hundredth time since this all started, it’s just the dementia. I try to comprehend his condition and the way his damaged brain now operates but I’m baffled and it occurs to me that multiplying my bafflement a couple of hundred times over might get me closer to what he’s going through.

He knows that I have his car keys but his broken connections won’t allow him to know why. He wants, or needs, to go somewhere and he connects his inability to drive with my betrayal, that day almost three months ago, when I walked out of his house with the car keys. The frustration and anger builds, compelling him to call me. Sometimes, if I wait a couple of hours, he’ll have forgotten and we might have a pleasant conversation. Other days, he calls repeatedly until we talk, or argue, or fight.

            As I often do these days, I send an e-mail to my brothers,

           TO: Chuck, Bruce

             Don’t answer the phone unless you’re in a good mood and you want to be the “good  son” today. Dad’s on the warpath because he can’t drive down to the store. If I don’t return his keys, he doesn’t want to see me again.

 Does that mean that I’m disowned and it’s all on you guys now?


             Black humour is a natural response to dire circumstances or stressful situations and it has become a part of our communications. Dad would be mortally offended at some of the things we say, even though we mean no disrespect, It’s just a coping strategy, I tell myself, clicking “Send” with guilty hesitation.

Bruce responds first:

            Not home this weekend so will have to listen to the message if he remembered the phone number. We’re in Banff watching Jenessa play hockey and bringing her home tomorrow for a couple weeks.

            Chuck replies an hour later.

             I got the call today as well as the hang up. He was pretty pissed off that no one has told him about not being able to drive. He still has his license, why the fuck doesn’t he have the keys to his car?

 He didn’t say I’m disowned, but I really don’t blame him for disowning Ron. I always point out that all of Dad’s troubles can be traced back to his evil son, Ron.

 It makes me smile but more importantly, I know I’m not in this by myself. Maybe we should talk about our feelings instead of being jackasses, but this interaction feels natural to us and I’m thankful that they play along. Add “sons of dementia patients” to the list of people who laugh in the face of chaos and doom.


Tell me what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!