The day that my father went searching for his pajamas in the attic, I thought it was time to have a talk about forgetfulness.
He cocked his head to the side like he had done a million times in my life and I knew he was digging in for the long fight. “I’m not forgetful.”
“Well, sometimes you are.”
“Prove it.” He hadn’t moved his head yet but his chin was pointed toward me now. When I was younger, this was when I took cover.
But not this time.
“Remember the time you couldn’t find your back brush? And it was hanging in the shower where it was supposed to be.”
His eyes glazed for a moment and then sharpened. “Everyone forgets things sometimes. You forget things, too.”
I didn’t want to do this. “Not like that.”
“Give me a test.”
“All right. Do you think you can count backwards from a hundred by threes?” I’d read that test in an article somewhere and figured it was worth a try.
“Of course I can. One hundred. Ninety, uh, —“He drew in a long breath. “I don’t want to do it right now. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong. You can’t do it either.”
So I did, counting from 100 to 90 before stopping. “Please, Dad. I just want to see if there’s something to help you. That’s all.”
“You think I have Alzheimer’s, don’t you?”
“I really don’t know. That’s why I’d like a diagnosis.”
“Well,” he tossed his head back now. “I don’t. I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to get that. So I don’t.”
I gave up.
He lived two more years and never visited a doctor about his forgetfulness.
We didn’t learn how severe the dementia was but I do know that, without a doctor’s assistance, my dad remembered his family members until the moment he passed on.
And maybe that was enough.