football

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.

REAL MEN DON’T HUG

We had just helped our oldest son unload the last of his boxes.  Watching him settle into the austere dorm room I felt that pang of longing which mothers often get watching their children leave home.   I had felt the same way when our older daughters went off to college and marriage. Now it was Kevin’s turn to spread his fledging wings and fly from the nest.

College would be an adventure in itself, but we had turned this one-way-trip for him into a family vacation.    With our two younger boys, Keith and Kenney, the five of us camped our way through Yellowstone  and the surrounding country before dropping Kevin off in Idaho to begin his freshman year.  I vowed to be brave and gave him a big hug and kiss as I told him I loved him and to be good.  Ken reached out his right hand to shake hands with this gangling young man we had reared and I said, “Oh, for goodness Ken, give your son a hug.”  “Real men don’t hug,” my husband lightly replied.   “Do they Kevin?”  With that the two shook hands and patted one another firmly on the shoulder.    From the car we waved and smiled as I  pinched myself to produce a physical pain.  I needed a counter-irritant for my aching heart.

All the way home, the younger boys referred to their older brother as “Brand X.”  “Why are you calling Kevin Brand X?”  asked Ken.  “Because every time we mention his name, Mom begins to cry,” answered Keith.   Laughing at their humor I admitted it was true.  I always found it hard to let go.   From their first day of kindergarten, mom’s send their sons off with hugs, kisses and a few tears, while  the fathers pat their little men on the shoulders and give them a hardy handshake.

The first few phone calls home were almost more painful than the parting.  He was homesick, lonely and disappointed because he wasn’t selected to be on the travel team and wouldn’t be playing in the first football game of the season.   So I became the strong one encouraging him to hang in there and that, surely, he would be selected for the next game.  He took comfort in my words and the following day joined five girls in a tiny VW to deliver a non-student back to her home in a neighboring state. 

The next phone call was from the Sheriff’s Department near Malad, Idaho informing me that our son had been in a tragic automobile accident and lay unconscious in the town’s hospital.   We made immediate arrangements to fly to Pocatello, rent a car and drive to Malad.  Seeing him lying there so hurt, so out of our reach we wondered if he would ever be awake again — if we would ever be able to hug him and hold  him close.  For three days he was engulfed in a coma while we sat and waited, hoped and prayed.   Finally, late in the afternoon a nurse came to tell us that our son was awake.  Through his foggy focus, Kevin looked at Ken and said, “Hi Pudg,” a nickname for his slightly overweight father.  After that, Ken always hugged his sons.

Recently I asked Keith (who lives nearby) to help move some furniture.  It took just a few minutes making the visit brief.  All the while Ken looked at the man before us with suspicion.  “This is Keith, our son,” I explained several times.  The confused look continued.  “I’m your son,” Keith said, looking straight into his father’s eyes.  “I’m not sure about that,” Ken answered.  “I’m just not sure.”  I thanked Keith profusely for his help and gave him a hug.  He turned to leave then thought better of it and came back to his father, reached around his shoulders and gave him a hug saying, “Bye, dad.”  With his left hand he patted his father on the back — momentarily forgetting —  but patting right on the spot of Ken’s throbbing shingles.   Keith’s hug awakened no memories in the demented mind of his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father.  Ken pulled back in pain, anger and a flurry of words about this strange man doing him harm spewed from his mouth.  “Thank you for the tender try,” I said as my son apologized and left.  My eyes welled with tears as Ken continued to rant.   Did Keith feel rejected and hurt even though he understood?  Interesting how mothers always feel their children’s pain.  Some day, the Lord willing and in the far distant future of eternity, Ken will return Keith’s hug  because in his heart of hearts my husband has learned that real men do hug.

Originally posted 2009-04-08 06:41:48.

NEW YEAR’S DAY AND FOOTBALL

January 2, 2009 — When one is married to an AD patient, a rousing night on the town is hardly on the calender.  Planning something special for New Year’s Eve for Ken and me while we’re on this journey into nowhere had to be close by and simple.  We spent New Year’s Eve with our friend Jayne at the movies.  It was after 8:00 when the movie ended and we barely found a place open to eat, but one is all we needed, and they closed at 9:00.

We took Jayne home and the first thing Ken asked once we were in our house was, “Are you going to cook dinner?”  The entire evening was forgotten; the movie and the food.  Reminding him that we just finished eating at a restaurant was to no avail, and to escape an on-coming argument I turned on the TV for him and went into the office.

When I peeked into the kitchen a half hour later, thinking he would be sleepy, and settled in the family room as I had given him two Tylenol PM, he was busy ransacking the refrigerator.  Finding cheese and bread and some Ready Whip — yes Ready Whip, instead of mayonnaise — I let him be.  We finally went to bed at 1:30 p.m.  I  hadn’t wanted to stay up and watch the New Year enter, but we did.   I just can’t sleep until he is settled.

All of our married life Ken has set aside New Year’s Day as his day.  If I invited anyone over for dinner they had to know in advance that any conversation would be about the “game.”  The one on the TV screen.   A lover of football, no matter who was playing, Ken could (and did) watch game after game, rooting and cheering for his favorite college team.  By day’s end he was exhausted, having physically gone through all the motions of running, kicking and tackling throughout every endless quarter.  With that kind of single-mindedness we seldom had guests on New Year’s Day.

Personally, I was always a little annoyed by his devotion to the great god football, but once into AD I would have been thrilled if he sat and watched.  I turned on the TV New Year’s morning and reminded him of how much he would enjoy the games.  He watched for a little while, but lost track of any action every time a commercial aired.  Nor was he inspired by a favorite college team.  This man who previously memorized stats and could give you the scores and teams from the last 20 Rose Bowl games didn’t know one team from the other. Yes, AD was gaining ground.  Nevertheless I encouraged him to watch reminding him of how much he had enjoyed all of these games in the past.  Unimpressed with my sales pitch he told me, “They’re just doing a rerun of yesterday’s game.”

The irony of it all.  If he had been capable of understanding I would have said, “That’s what I’ve been telling you for more than a half century.”   I know, sarcastic humor is wasted on the very young.  It’s also wasted on  the very old, especially if they have Alzheimer’s.

 

Originally posted 2009-01-02 05:22:52.

ALZHEIMER’S AND SUPER BOWL SUNDAY

Super Bowl IXVII

Once an enthusiastic sports fan Ken can no longer follow any game.  Alzheimer’s has robbed him of memory.

ALZHEIMER’S ROBS FAN

February 8, 2013 – Before Alzheimer’s and even a few years into the disease Ken was a sports’ nut, and has been all of his life.   I suppose I could just say “Fan” instead of nut which might be considered a more polite term, but the word fan is taken from fanatic, and Ken was fanatic about sports, so for me “nut” is definately appropriate.

I was a sports’ nut too, but only when any one of our children were involved.  It wasn’t as though I didn’t understand the rules of just about all sporting events; I did.  Furthermore, as a youth I was rather athletically inclined and participated in whatever games were scheduled in my P.E. classes during my school years. Everything except, of course, football, which I quickly learned having been afflicted with a mad crush on our team’s quarterback.  Continue reading

Originally posted 2013-02-09 18:30:55.

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