Friday, September 12, 2014

Dementia Church

     "I want to see the old priest," Dad said. It was time for the abbreviated mass offered to Dad and his housemates.

     I helped him out of his chair and waited for his feet to be able to walk instead of repetitively tapping the floor due to pseudo-parkinsonian symptoms from the Lewy Body Dementia. Dad is now refusing to use his walker at all. [I suspect because he is determined to not need a wheelchair as long as possible and he knows that is the next piece of equipment after a walker]. Once he gets walking, he does not want any form of help. But that does not stop me from watching him like a hawk as he does ambulate anywhere in my presence.

     Once off the elevator, Dad waited in the doorway until the old priest was done reading from the gospel. It was the story about Jesus telling folks to "love your enemy" and if the enemy steals stuff from you, to give them more stuff. [Matthew 5:43-48]. I tried to steer Dad to a chair but he was having none of it. Then I just stood there behind him bracing myself in case he fell. He didn't.

     The old priest stopped reading. Dad indicated that I should sit in one chair and he sat in another.

     "You want your [regular] chair?" one old lady asked Dad.

     The old priest began expounding on the verses he had read. It was the anniversary of 9/11. So he talked about the bombings and Al Queda. And he threw in be-headings and ISIS. 

     "Jesus commands us to love Al Queda. And ISIS." the old priest said. 

     I was fairly certain that Jesus wasn't commanding any such thing but I shut my mouth. The old people-- the seven old ladies and my dad-- said nothing. Who knew how much of his message they were catching. None of it, I hoped.

     "No one records our prayer. But we can change people by praying for them. We just don't know the results. Here and there one [terrorist] gets changed."

     I started diagnosing the priest with several forms of insanity.

     "Why would Jesus tell us to love those people?" the old priest asked.

     No one hazarded a guess.

     The old priest went on in a similar vein for the next ten minutes about the bombings and terrorists and be-headings and The Islamic State. The old people directed their faces towards the old priest vacantly. 

     He sputtered and stopped. "Did you get that?" he asked my dad.

     "Yeah," Dad said. I was sure he didn't. If he had, he would have argued with the old priest.

     The old priest said a few more of the Catholic call-and-response prayers. One old lady knew the "Lord have mercy" thing. Dad tried.

     The old priest started a rendition of the Our Father. "This prayer is how we get along," he explained.

     Most of the old people, including Dad, knew the Lord's Prayer. The Roman Catholics cut it short. One Protestant lady said the rest of it, smiling mischievously as she did so. 

     "The Mass is ended. Go in peace," the old priest intoned. 
     "And you too, Father," Dad said.

     The Protestant lady reached forward and touched the back of the old priest's white robe. She winked when she saw that I was watching. I smiled back.

     "Jesus wore sandals. So I do too," said the old priest as he took off the garment to reveal his black shirt, black pants, and black socks. The sandals were brownish.

     The old people thanked the old priest profusely for showing up and rendering the brief Mass. He helped my dad out of the chair. 

     "I'm going to a better place," said the man that didn't want to ever talk about death. "Some people go to the bad place. But I'm going to the good place." [Dad seems to have gotten "saved" a couple of years ago].

     "Right now, you're going to the dining room," the old priest teased him gently.

     A late arrival waltzed into the sitting room. "Did I miss it?" she asked.

     "You have to get the staff to call you for the Mass," the old priest responded.

     "I'm going to give them what-for."

     "I thought about being a priest when I was younger," Dad remarked.

     "But then you were thinking about your daughter."

     [Actually, Dad discovered girls and any thoughts of entering the priesthood abandoned him promptly].

     "I love men. All men." This from the late arrival. "And he is precious," she added, indicating my dad.

     "I wish I could feel precious," the priest said.

     "You're precious too." The late arrival was a flirt. "I'll make you feel precious."

     The old priest laughed. "I wish I could feel precious before I come here."

     "I'll make you feel precious," she repeated.

     The old priest exited.

     "Let's go to the porch," Dad said. We walked and lurched over to the front door. We stood and talked about the squirrels.

     "I've fed the squirrels here," Dad told me. 

     "I put out peanuts in the shell yesterday and every blue jay in the neighborhood showed up and took them away one by one!" I told him.

     "I have to go to the bathroom. You better go. Drive carefully!"

     Dad and I hugged.

     For once, I was happy that the dementia protected his brain from the ramblings of the old priest. Some things truly aren't worth preserving in the memory.

     Later, I sought out my Oathkeeper friend. "I would have raised my hand and told the priest that I will love the terrorists to the ground," he re-assured me.

     "Thank-you," I said. "That really helps."