FOOTBALL SEASON, KEN AND ALZHEIMER’S
It wasn’t as though I didn’t understand the game, I did. Learning the rules, the jargon and the point of all that back-and-forth running was self-taught in high school when I found out the cute guy I had a crush on was our team’s quarterback. Acquiring that knowledge, I never missed a game. Hopefully when we ran into one other in the hall I might say a few brilliant words about his expertise. I didn’t, only managing to mumble something clever like, “Good game.” Once the crush was gone so was my interest in football until my sons were old enough and big enough to play in their high school games. Being the mother allowed me to show my absolute admiration for their spectacular plays even when the team lost.
For Ken, however, the meaning of Fall was football. But even more: those men (and a sprinkling of women) who happened to be the first of their kind to view sports on television in the early 1950s were fans in every sense of the word fanatic. Moreover, they never got over that phenomena of seeing their favorite team on TV. It was like watching the space capsule splash down, but with football they could see it happen on a weekly basis with just the touch of a button on the tube. The family often worried when Ken and his dad watched together. Mentally, the two of them ran both directions, felt every tackle, caught every pass, bemoaned every fumble and shouted with joy at every touchdown. “It’s bad enough with you,” I told Ken, “but I’m afraid your father is going to have a heart attack the way he carries on during these games.” “He’s fine,” Ken reassured me. And he was.
It just wasn’t the craziness that troubled me, it was the procrastination that it caused. Football all week end and every game was important. At least that was Ken’s excuse for watching every college game scheduled and the pros on Sunday. Then it was Monday night to say nothing about New Year’s Day and all the scheduled bowl games. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the game, it was all the time he invested in watching when he should have been cutting the lawn and doing all the other “Honey Do’s” that just didn’t get done. Often I suggested he concentrate on watching “Football Highlights,” the best part of football all summed up in a brief half hour — or hour, whatever it was. No. Ken had to see them all from start to finish. I often told him football was like my roll of film taken at Crater Lake: see one, you’ve seen them all.
When Alzheimer’s robbed him of not only memory, but understanding and logic I encouraged him to watch television, particularly those programs which at one time were of interest to him — sports — and especially football. I noticed that with each season, the game held his interest less and less. As soon as a commercial came on he would leave his seat telling me the game was over. He could no longer remember the continuity of the game itself. Nevertheless, the other day I led him back once the game resumed, reminding him how much he enjoyed watching. He sat for a minute or two as if to concentrate on what was happening, then rose abruptly and walked away. “Wait!” I said, “You love this team. Sit and watch.” “No thanks,” he replied. “This is the same game I saw last week.” “Finally!” I said to myself. “Football games are the same as my photos of Crater Lake. See one, see them all. I’ve been trying to tell him that for more than a half century.”
Originally posted 2009-10-11 05:20:14.