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Day 478. in which signs are only good if you know where you are.

And clearly, I didn't.

When I look back at when my father first moved in with me, I cringe.

I expected more from him than he was capable.

He had only recently stopped driving (a blog, for another time...). He had been home most of the time alone, sometimes for days, nights, while his partner was away at work.

I wonder now what those days and nights passed alone were like for him.

At first, I thought he was OK to leave home alone; he simply needed visual queues.

This one served as a reminder to Bob to eat lunch while I was at work.

I littered the house with pointers. Nothing fancy. Simply Sharpee-scribbled reminders of who he was, what to do, and where to go on colored construction paper.

Bob's Room.


STOP! Bob! Stay inside the house!


Stupidly, at first, I sometimes left him in the house with notes in 'joke' format, like 'Hey Bob, don't leave the house! The police are looking for you!" which would have been really funny if my father didn't have Alzh…
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Day 1413: in which Bob writes home.

"Dear Mom, I took 3 rides on these things across San Fran. today. Wooden seats. ALCATRAZ IS IN BACKGROUND. Love, Bob"Postmarked: San Francisco, California, May 22, 11 PM, 1959.
Postage: 3 cents Liberty - In God We Trust purple-colored stamp
Addressed to: Mrs. Ivy R. Brown
From: Robert Allen Brown

Day 1100: in which Bob predates hipsters.

This Pabst Blue Ribbon box recently found its way to me from my stepmother's basement. Its contents are mysterious: loose diodes and transistors, carefully wrapped in socks and rubber bands, several books on Calculus, a slide rule, and a half dozen of empty pill bottles with their labels ripped off.

Ingrained in my memory, this solidly-constructed box has carried varying possessions of Bob's since the 1970s!

Day 1099: in which a good box is hard to find.

Between 1974, when I was born, and 1992, when I graduated from high school, I lived in, at least, 20 different houses.

Though we resided, for the most part, in Columbia County, so that I could remain in the same school through graduation, continuity where it counts being of importance to my father, we often relocated to different rentals in the area.

Whenever we moved into a new house, Bob would initially discuss decorating the house but it rarely moved past the theoretical. The boxes containing our belongings would often double as our furniture. Several stacked Xerox boxes would become the TV stand. Bed sheets tacked up would become our curtains, if there were curtains hung at all. Bob had dreams of me sewing curtains out of burlap, a material he found both sturdy and practical, but my ambition to sew was low, so they never came to fruition.

Xerox boxes worked the best, and easy to come by, at the Internal Revenue Service offices in Albany, where my father worked as a tax auditor. R…

Day 999. in which, no, actually.

"I like the way Indians dress. They had weird underwear," Lil stated, as she stood there in her own.

"Well. They couldn't just go online and shop for underwear; they had to make their own underwear out of the materials they had."

What? A time before the Internets...?

Lili's eyes were open wide.

"But who were the Indians?"

"Well, the Indians were the people living here when Christopher Columbus 'discovered' America. They were actually the first ones here."

"No, actually, the Indian weren't here first; the dinosaurs were."

Day 987. in which there are explosives.

Day 937. in which the closet is still occupied.

My father, who suffers from the late-stages of early-onset Alzheimer's, has not been able to live with me for some time. Simple tasks I once took for granted - like eating, walking, talking - have become real challenges. A man who less than two years ago walked all the way from Kingston to Bloomington, albeit unintentionally, is no longer able to stand unassisted. Only five years ago, he had still regularly rode his bicycle over the New York border from his home in Cambridge, New York to West Arlington, Vermont, which only stopped after he had misplaced several bicycles.

Even though Bob's no longer living with me, his presence persists. 

Throughout the house, objects seem stranded. His wallet, once full of business cards and cash sits empty and discarded on the top of a shelf in the kitchen, its contents lost and the shell dismissed long ago.

At the end of an upstairs hallway, next to the room where my father slept, is a closet which I rarely open. When I open the door, I'…

Day 935. in which there are NO SEX PISTOLS at the High Museum of Art!

The year was 1988! My father drove us from Kinderhook, New York to Atlanta, Georgia in his Isuzu Trooper, which lacked both an air conditioner and a radio, for our vacation in which I recall as an ungodly hot summer.

It was the summer before my freshman year in high school and the last thing I wanted to do was to ride with my father in a hot car across the country. He wouldn't let me use my Sony Walkman! He wanted a fully functioning co-pilot: awake, alert, and counting mile markers along the Interstate!

In the back of the Trooper was Bob's mini-cooler stocked with Bob-delicacies: aerosol cheese, crackers, and soda, lest we become overcome by hunger on the road!

We stopped at many rest stops, collecting bundles of tourist brochures and maps. We had quite a collection, which I would peruse through every evening, back in our motel, plotting out the next day. I was in charge of finding coupon deals for the next Econo Lodge down the line. This was the summer I learned it was "…

Day 921. in which my boss retires and we go for crabcakes.

And they were good.

Day 918. in which the sweetest post-apocalyptic picture is drawn.

Lil:"Their world got killed so they're looking for another world." Me:"They look fairly happy for having just lost their world." Lil:"They're on their way to their mother, who has blankets and food..."

Day 916. in which library books are read.

Day 912. in which my robot friend serves copious amounts of coffee.

#14. My Coffee-Making Robot Friend.

Day 661. in which destitution falls upon the mighty.

Down and Out in Kingston, New York.

Day 648. in which I find a place I can afford to live in Upstate New York.

 Authentic + Affordable!
How can I deny this authentic Upstate experience?

At last, I found a place I can afford to live! I can't afford to buy a real home because I'm in publishing.

 This cozy camper is one-of-a-kind! Located beneath the shade of a weeping willow tree, she stays cool all spring, right up to summer!
Conveniently located next door to all amenities*, I'm ready to pack it up and move on in!
An outdoor refrigeration unit is located conveniently next to exit!** I'll keep my food cold all winter without the unnecessary expense of electric. Hear that, Niagara Mohawk? ConEd! Central Hudson! Down with the lot of you!

A little duct tape will cover up the holes on the windows and doors. Once we get the padlock off the door, it's otherwise in ready to move-in condition.*** You really must see it to believe it!

I'll have a housewarming as soon as I'm settled.

*2 miles from a public restroom at a full-service gas station.
**Everything as-is condition.

Day 643. in which we wait in the dark.

Last night, I found myself planted on the couch in my living room with a gummi worm hanging out of the side of my mouth. I wondered just how long before one of my little hell monkeys would wander by and notice?
As a child, I maintained the false belief, as I suspect many children do, that my father was an infallible, rational being. Therefore, everything he said must be universally true and right.

Father knows best.

Now that I'm a parent, I realize how fallacious this belief was. I'm taller. I pay taxes. I've evolved but I'm still the same weird kid on the inside that I've always been.

As I grew older, the world unveiled realities outside of my own microcosm and what this world reflected was that my own was more than a bit askew. My father had a lot of eccentricities that I never thought twice about until many years later.

The ride home was quiet and still, highlighted by Bob's humming. It wasn't many years later that I learned 'Starry, Starry Night&…

Day 503. in which a letter is delivered from 1974.

My father is 70 years old. What he owns can fit into a small bedroom.

There are hundreds of business cards, wrapped up with rubber bands; soaps and shampoos, collected from motels; beer coasters he habitually nabbed from bars; a large Xerox box full of maps; a variety of adhesive he used during his sock-gluing phase, among a variety of other odds and ends that had somehow called to him. In all of these items, I am aware of something intrinsically 'Bob' in all of them. To an outsider, they would signify little.

But what stands out the most in this room is an object lately untouched by Bob: a plain hard-covered, black brief case. The brief case that carried back and forth various documents from the Federal building in Albany, the mysterious case I was not to touch on pain of death. I recall it being a source of mystery for me. What could be so very important in that black brief case...?

The brief case left me deflated. At the end of the day, is that all there is..?

Now here I was,…

Day 456. in which our holidays are always twisted.


Day 421. in which you might not want to respond to your mother's beck and call.

Bob's most quiet time of the day is the morning. While words often escape him in the evening, the morning is relatively coherent, when a dialogue is still possible. The panic does not settle into Dad's eyes until the sun begins to set on the day. This morning, his head was resting on the back of the couch, and his eyes were closed. He was quiet.

The couch pillows were arranged so that the ones which were supposed to go behind him were instead piled up on top of him. He clutched the over-sized pillow close to his body, hugging it tightly to his chest. Only his glasses peeked out over the top, the rest of his face hidden by the pillow. Dana and I were sitting on the other side of the room on the love seat, engrossed by our digital devices. The morning show was droning on in the background but none of us were minding it. The children had already been shuffled off to school so the house was unusually peaceful.

With his eyes still closed, Bob said dreamily, "When I close my eyes…

Day 389. in which I suspect I lost count...

"guy with no arms" by lilith arden soechting, age 3.

Day 382. in which leroy c. cornell is identified?

Often Dad's reality is mismatched from the moment actually transpiring to a moment from long ago. In addition to the Alzheimer's diagnosis, Dad has recently been plagued with pneumonia, and other random viruses passed along to him from his goobie grandchildren who are laden with germs so he's been more confused than usual.

Sometimes it seems like my father is already gone.

In truth, he cannot do any of the things he once loved to do. He spends most of his time on a couch in a living room, and cannot find his way back to the living room once he wanders out of it. Attempts at dialogue are a challenge. Dad talks with me like his words are making sense but more often than not, they are not.

And other days, he cannot talk at all.

I recently began scanning Dad's old photographs. One of my regrets is that my father kept some mementos and photographs but that their story could be 'die' with him. Most of his photographs are not notated and while some of them I am able to p…

Day 375. in which I could use a lecture.

Before my father moved in with me, I'd occasionally go up to Cambridge to spend the weekend with him while Barbara was working.

"So, are you planning on spending the night tonight?" he'd ask.

When I'd announce I was spending the entire weekend, he would look overjoyed, "Oh! Good, good! So..., you'll be here all weekend, then? That's great!"

Sometimes, he would ask me this more than once and when he realized it, he would simply laugh and say, "I already asked you that, didn't I? Why am I repeating myself?" and he'd laugh, and then drink another glass of wine.

I'm not quite sure why - if his intention had been to regulate his amount of drinking? - but he often drank wine out of a small juice glass.

Unfortunately, he had a tendency to continually refill his juice glass. It was difficult to tell whether his drinking confounded his memory, or his memory confounded his drinking.

It's hard to know.

Today, Dad asked me, "Are you …

Day 365. in which we remember what we have written.

For many years, I mocked my father for the trail of enigmatic notes that littered our home. They never made much sense to me so it was easy for me to poke fun at them. But the older I become, the more I appreciate how genius this truly was. His notes were obviously a part of his master plan to overcome his memory loss. Written in his own hand, he was not required to rely on his degrading memory. He would remember anything - and everything - by writing a note about it which he could simply refer to later. Who needs a memory with a trail of documentation?

I think this one may be my favorite - a typical Bob Brown grocery list. Guinness Stout and Scotch tape. He wrote this one shortly after he moved in with us - hence, our address on it as well.

Dad used to walk up to Rite Aide in Cambridge every day, when he was still able, and alternately purchase rubber bands, paper clips, and scotch tape. A cashier told me this one day when I was with him, and Barbara confirmed he had an ever-growing co…

Day 360. in which I confess about the fire.

My father had systems that boggled me for years. I didn't understand them and often what we don't understand, we tend to mock. It was much easier to poke fun of his enigmatic notes littering our home than it was for me to try and understand them. Sometimes, I feel angry that he never discussed his memory problems with me until we could no longer have a dialogue about them.

Feeling somewhat frustrated, I said to him the other day, fruitlessly, "Why didn't you ever talk to me about your memory problems?"

And he looked at me with this pleading look of confusion, "I never knew that I had a memory problem!"

Whose fault is it that we never had a discussion about this? Is it his, or is it really mine?

When I was younger, it was easy to make jokes about it. One Christmas, when I was in my early 20's, I bought him a book on how to improve his memory as a joke. I thought it was funny. I don't think it is so funny now. And apparently, the book wasn't very …

Day 348. in which ice melts.

"Daddy! Look! Someone took the ice cube!"

Lil stared despondently into her purple cup as Seth began to snigger.

"Ha! No, Lily, it melted..."

"It melted?"

Day 347. in which, apparently, dinner was not satisfying.

"What I would like is a piece of ice, something that would make me hungry right now for at least two hours...oh well..." Bob sighed. "Such is life."
Dad and I are sitting on the sofa, enjoying a surprisingly sedate moment. Any moment in my house that is sedate is a surprise. I can hear Lil and Liam pestering Dana in the kitchen. He's breaking open pistachios for them - a tedious chore. Seth is upstairs, being his reclusive teen-aged self. I'm poking around online while Dad is chattering. He's peering over my shoulder at the screen of my laptop, resting in my lap on the couch. We already ate dinner, and are lazying about in our pajamas.
"Why is it that when you are hungry, you are really hungry? but that when you're not so hungry, you're not. It just seems so strange that it is this way. I mean, I was just wondering what I was going to be eating tonight. not that I'm going to be eating tonight... because it's just too cold to go out t…

Day 341. in which I irritate Liam with my camera.

i feel this way myself sometimes, liam.

Day 330. in which no subjects yelled, but objects were launched.

The proprietor of Hudson Coffee Traders is awesome, indeed! He kindly acquiesced to my demands for a larger 'Alex' sized cup of coffee!

One evening, an anonymous comment was posted on my former blog - Day 188 - simply asking, "What size would give you the caffeine boost you need?"

I called Kyrce on the phone almost immediately.

"What size do you think would make the 'perfect' size coffee cup? Ideally? What did they used to have at the Citgo before it shut down?"

This was very important. Just recently, I had ingested the largest size cup available at Hudson Coffee Traders by the time we hit New Paltz on our commute to USR. Two stops on the way to work wouldn't work, if we were ever to be on time!

Kyrce is great because I can call her and ask her stupid things and she doesn't suggest they are stupid. We discussed various coffee sizes available at various vendors and settled on 20 ounces.

20 ounces is the perfect sized cup to get you from Hudson Coff…

Day 323. in which oats and beer are left behind but we continue the practice.

My father never knew what to do with me. I lived alone with him from the age of 10 on, and I realize he really did the best he could as a single father with a preteen daughter. I wouldn't have wanted to trade places with him.

Now that I'm on the caregiver side, I'm more empathetic with his motives even if the actions sometimes seemed askew. He was concerned with my well-being and success, and tried to point me in the right direction, but I imagine it was hard for him to know what the right direction was. Unfortunately, growing up has unmasked the illusion that parents always know best.

We can aim to be good parents but it's a constant practice, not an end goal of perfection to be attained.

As the primary caregiver of my father, I practice to be a good caregiver. But I will be the first to admit that my practice falls short from time to time. With diligence, I pick up and try again.

And so did Dad. Again, and again. And that really is something.

* * *

The important th…