I'll never forget the day I Stopped Calling Him Daddy. He was Always my Daddy– my hero, my bigger-than-life own personal Superman, Roy Rogers, John Wayne–
ready to play when he came home from running a locomotive down the tracks.
He taught me how to box, play ball, shoot marbles, feed an orphan calf with a bucket of powdered milk, drive his pickup….
AND he tried (not always successfully according to my Mom) to fix anything that was broken using his favorites–barbed wire and duct tape.
Even 55 years later, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, he was still my Daddy–
NEVER a complainer, always grateful, happy, kind to others, determined to be in control of his life, stand up for what was right
and never be a burden.
AS THE ILLNESS PROGRESSED
And, unfortunately, as we watched him deteriorate right before our eyes, he lost his memories one by one and abilities to do even the simplest daily tasks.
BUT he was still my Daddy.
He smiled every time I visited him, always kissed my hand and held on to it with his strong working-man hands like he never
wanted to let go.
He loved when I trimmed his fingernails and would rub the tips of his fingers with his thumb to let me know it was time to get the clippers out. I remember the little finger on his left hand stuck out straighter than the others like it had been broken a long
Oh, how I regret not having a picture of those loving hands. There was a song Holly Dunn wrote and sang about her
“Daddy's Hands” that says it all so perfectly.
BACK TO THAT DAY
I walked into the “family room” of the facility where he was cared for the last year of his life. He was in a wheel chair sitting in a
circle with others who suffered, in various stages, of the same mind-destroying illness. As I got closer and he extended his hand with his familiar warm smile, I held fast with both of mine and greeted him in my usual way…
Kissed him on the cheek and said “Hi Daddy. How are you today?”
Immediately, I sensed confusion and panic on his face. He didn't speak. He knew he knew me but he couldn't figure out why
I was calling him “Daddy.”
The QUESTIONS shouted back at me from the wrinkle in his brow and his light blue eyes–
Who is this woman, calling me Daddy?
When did I become someone's Father?
Hells Bells (one of his favorite expressions my Mom was forever trying to break him from) What is going on?
It's so hard to figure out the mind of an Alzheimer's patient. BUT it was obvious he had no memory of being a Dad.
My heart was breaking. I wanted him to remember. How could he forget who he was to me, the times we had together,
that I loved him more than life, the reason I was there?
NOW what do I do?
Then, something inside me whispered–
JUST CALL HIM BY HIS NAME
So, I smiled and asked again–“How are you, Mac?”
His demeanor changed. He relaxed; smiled back at me and took my hand–the hand of someone he knew he knew and, most
importantly, felt safe with.
That had to be good enough and was enough until the day he left us…
when I called him Daddy one more time and thanked him for being a wonderful Dad.
He smiled and closed his eyes.
Be a Caregiver Who Cares About Yourself Too,
PS: Until next time here is Holly Dunn's song – Daddy's Hands