You are my Sunshine, my only sunshine,
You make me happy, when skies are gray.
You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.
This has been my “Go-To” lullaby for my boys ever since I can remember. Really, I sang this to Weatherman whenever he was restless or unhappy or fussy, and after a few minutes of my off-tune melody, he would calm down and usually go to sleep. It has since been my favorite song to sing to any fussy baby, and I reserve the right to alter the tune however I want. All 3 of my sons have gone to sleep to this little song, and it still remains a mainstay in my church nursery duty repertoire.
Imagine my pleasure, when on an hour long road trip with my Granddaddy (remember, the one with Alzheimer’s), that I heard this pleasant baritone voice out of the back seat…”You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…” He was singing to my Grandmother, and he and I finished the chorus with a very nice harmonious blend. By Ned, my Granddaddy might not remember that he finished a 6 course dinner 5 minutes earlier, but he can sing his favorite wooing song to my Grandmother by heart.
Of course, this hour long trip had its share of laughs as well. My Alzheimer’s Granddaddy’s long term memory is shot, and he asked every 5 minutes, “Where are we going? Is it time to eat yet? Do we have a snack? Where are we going? When will we be there?” And these questions were asked over, and over, and over….
Thank God for our sense of humor. My mom reminisced about all the many trips she took with my grands to Northport, and how she and my Uncle Jim would ask the same questions as my Granddaddy. My middle son Monkey went on this trip with us, and he kept laughing at my Granddaddy’s questions and started answering them with his own versions of questions. My Mom taught Monkey the meaning of “C-O-D” curves as we traveled Hwy 69 from Jasper to Tuscaloosa; she told Monkey that Granddaddy liked those curves because they were COD curves, and of course Monkey bit, “what’s COD?”
My mom responded, “Come over, Darling”, of course. This was priceless, on this ride. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time, and I was driving. We made it to Northport and my Granddaddy got to eat all he wanted, and I did too. I also walked my 2 miles when I got home.
But I thought of the other part of that song that I always sing:
The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping,
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
But when I woke, dear, I was mistaken,
And I hung my head and I cried.
This verse. I have only approached my Dad’s illness from my point of view, so far. He is my hero, my provider, the man who helped make me who I am.
What if he was my spouse? My helpmate? My husband? I spoke with my mom about this earlier this week, and I realize that she has her own personal whereabouts to navigate. This man is her provider, lover, helpmate, friend, and more than I can name. How is this for her?
Hard. That’s how it is. It’s exactly like the song above…I dreamed I held you, but I was mistaken, and she hung her head, and she cried. Readers, do you want to know what is so hard about frontotemporal dementia?
It’s that some days the ill person seems perfectly sane and okay. Everything out of their mouth makes sense and is rational and is totally sensible. Why in the world are we keeping this sane, reasonable person in a facility that requires a code to get in and out? My mom is TORN…she wants to believe this behavior is what it really is, but we have evidence that it is not. We have every desire for him to be home, but we know that the disease-Pick’s Disease-is a thief, just like the devil.
This is hard. I am letting my children be a part of it, because I want them to see that even when life is hard, we don’t give up. We always press on. I want my kids to see their Grandmother love on their Granddaddy even when he is annoying with his constant questions. I want them to see the love of Christ in my Mom, when she is nice and sweet to Dad, when he is not so nice and sweet to her. Because, after all, “You are my Sunshine…My only Sunshine.”