Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Friday, April 04, 2008

Things He Repeats

In the throes of Alzheimers, details from the past swim their way to the surface and become newly fresh. They're like aging stars from a long ago closed-down Broadway play who have all been waiting backstage in the dark, for decades, hoping to be summoned for a revival.

My dad's family owned four horses and a pony when he was a boy. One of the things he repeats at random times is a list of their names:

"Prince, Rex, Hallie, and Ruby. And a pony named Nancy."

He rode the pony to school, tied her to a post outside all day, then rode her home. This sounded mean to me, but I guess it was normal back then.

His joke about Rex is this: "When I used to ask Rex if he wanted some more oats he said 'a f-e-w-w-w-w-w-w'" (this part is an airy fart sound).

Other things on his list of recitations:

His serial number from World War II

His social security number

The parts of Australia he visited during the war

The length of time he served (3 years, 4 months, 16 days)

The names of his four aunts: Minnie, Idie, Frankie, and Annie.

And the Most Frequently Repeated two questions to me when I'm visiting:

"Candy, where do you call home?"

I tell him "Phoenix."

"Oh? Do you live in Phoenix?"


"Do you like it there?"


"How come?"

And then I tell him one of my usual answers, such as, it's too hot, too far away, or too much like Mexico.

And then he asks that question so very many more times that sometimes when he gets to "Do you like it there?" I say "Love it. Living a dream." or "If I loved it any more, I would shit myself." This makes my mom laugh. Which is why I do it. That and being afraid my head will explode if I repeat the same answer one more time.

Mom gets exasperated, and gets afraid that he will drive me insane. And she says "Freddie, stop asking her that!"

"OK," he says. "No further questions."

Ten seconds pass.

"Candy, where do you call home?"

When I get out of bed when I'm staying with them, I drag myself like a zombie across the kitchen to the coffeemaker. I am so tired it feels as though parts of me are falling off with each step. By the time I get to the coffee, I'm only a torso and a head. This makes it difficult to hold a cup. My eyes are squinty and burning. My dad is seated at the kitchen counter, in his pajamas, waiting for Mom to put his breakfast in front of him. His hair is sticking up in Einstein directions. He sees me.

"Candy, where do you call home?"

I use my newly developed answer, which is looking at him, cocking my head, and raising one eyebrow.

"Phoenix?" he says.


"Do you like it there?"


"How come?"

(He got the "how come" from one of my nieces, who used to "how come" you to death about everything when she was little. It is now something stuck on the edges of Dad's sense of humor like a sponge on a fish hook. He doesn't know why it's there, but it's there.)

Mom gets out his breakfast, always the same breakfast, Shredded Wheat with fruit on top. He calls these his bales of hay.

Before he gets the first spoonful into his mouth, question number two is asked:

"Candy, weren't you the valedictorian?"


"How come?"

My answers have varied: Because I got A's. Because I had a smart mom and dad. Because I slept with the principal. Because there was only one in my class. Because they couldn't find anyone else. Because I wanted to make you happy.

Because I wanted to make you happy.


  • At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Alzheimers koans for your early morning pleasure.

    I bet you did make him happy. And proud.

  • At 1:02 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    The happy and proud thing? Not as much as you might expect.

    But that had to go into the Permanently Unresolved Issues pile a long time ago.

    Koans. Heh.

  • At 10:17 AM, Blogger Jerry said…

    Having gone through some sad times with my Mom, I have a sense of how you feel...if it is really possible for one human to "know" how another experiences their reality.

    I am learning some things about Alzheimers--though at my age I try to block any awareness that things like this happen to people and they can't do anything about it; and, they didn't do anything to deserve it.

    I like to read the things you write; I like you--it's hard not to develop a crush on someone with your sensibilities. And, I still think you should write a book--about anything. Anything you write about would be interesting-- Miss Valedictorian.

  • At 12:54 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Jerry, I have thought of you and wondered if your feelings in going through your mom's illness were like mine are now. I've always wanted to have the ability to live inside someone else's mind for just 30 seconds to see what it's like.

    The valedictorian thing is perhaps a bit less showy when you know there were only 84 in my class. I have no idea why it's a topic for my dad these days.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • At 2:17 PM, Blogger Steve B said…

    Tough stuff. It's got to be hard, but it's good to see that you're able to at least deal with it with some humor. I guess sometimes that's your only refuge. Laugh or go crazy.

  • At 8:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You need to say you love AZ because your husband is there. ;)

    Moving for your love often stinks...
    when you up and leave the rest of your life behind - like momma always said love doesn't pay the rent you go where the shingle hangs.

    (been there done it)

    You are brilliant. I feel like I am having coffee with you and your parents -

    So sorry about this as well. :(
    Watching our parents age/un-well sucks.


  • At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Love doesn't pay the rent, you go where the shingle hangs. I like that one.

  • At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


  • At 11:52 AM, Blogger JBelle said…

    The last two days my dad was alive, he focused on one task only: paying invoices. We paid invoices over and over, him calling the play, me at his side, taking the notes to pay the invoices. There were only two, airfare and movies. If in his life, there were two things my dad was less connected with than airfare and movies, I would be hard pressed to name them. But we paid those invoice over and over again, checked our balance over and over again so we could pay invoices, until finally he died, in my arms.

    It was my profound honor to be with him when he left and as he left, but it also has created, for all time, confusion, doubt, and fright that stays with me still.

    and are you kidding? He was proud of you. He was happy. That's not unresolved. But his limits are his limits. They do not belong to you.

  • At 2:45 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Jbelle, speaking of "profound honor," I am very honored and grateful that you wrote what you wrote here. It is so valuable right now to be able to hear other stories of other endings. Thank you so much.

    And thanks for pointing out that his limits are HIS. I know that he did the best he could, and somewhere in my 30s I learned to take the good parts and let the rest go.

    You've opened up some important doors in my head today.

  • At 4:08 PM, Blogger Lisa Dunick said…

    I want to comment on this, but I don't think that I have anything to say that matches the honesty or beauty or heartbreak of this post.

  • At 4:29 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    " doesn't pay the rent you go where the shingle hangs."

    I love that, Kel. But what the heck does it mean?

    And yes, the one redeeming quality of AZ is that Scott is here. I never forget it. I'd live in Siberia with him, with nothing but an igloo and a toaster oven.

  • At 10:58 PM, Blogger E. said…

    When my husband's grandfather Bob was in the late stages of Alzheimers, he had these few little riffs he'd do. He was always a bit of a cut up and a rake, and his mantra in his dotage was "most beautiful legs at Trenton High," which referred to his beloved wife, who he wooed and won in their teen years. Later, sadder, he started asking over and over and over "What do you want Bob to do?" (And his wife would always reply "You're fine, father. Just relax.")

  • At 7:48 AM, Blogger Dana said…


  • At 12:02 PM, Blogger Citlali said…

    "Because I wanted to make you happy." The way you repeat it sounds just like "As you wish." from the Princess Bride -- which, as we all know, really means "I love you." My heart is breaking with you. That unbelievably sharp and powerful sense of humor shines on... more hugs = ]


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