My sister Ann and I are visiting our dad in the all-male Alzheimer unit. The men here are not who they used to be.
A fellow named Gerald shuffles constantly around the room. He occasionally picks up some random item and carries it around until an aide notices, takes it away, and returns it to the rightful owner. During our visits, we'll nudge one another--oh look, Gerald's coming out of room 2--this time he's got someone's pillow. We remember to watch our bags and coats when Gerald's route brings him close to us.
Now an aide tells one of the other guys, "Henry, get your feet off the table." But Henry grins, tucks his chin and leaves his sneakered feet right where they are. My sister leans over to comment on how this 80-year-old man suddenly looks like a mischievous 8-year-old-boy.
"Henry!" bellows the guy over in the corner, who repeats everything that others say, "Get your feet off the table!"
"Help!" yells the other fellow, who yells for no reason. "Help! Help!"
"Help!" hollers the guy in the corner who repeats everything, "Help! Help!"
I look at my sister. "It's like a slow-motion One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in here," I say, and my dad smiles, as if he gets the joke.
And maybe he does. There's no way for us to know.
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