My dear father is 95 years old. About a year ago we moved him into a Memory Care facility. It’s in the same town where he grew up. Same town where he was run over by a Model-T Ford. They lifted him from the street and carried him into a near-by house and laid him on the dining room table to assess his injuries–broken ribs, broken leg. You can’t live 95 years and not have had a colorful life. His outfit received the Belgian Cross for their service in the Battle of the Bulge. He came home to a stalled economy and a poor job market. That led him to create five businesses, each one a stair step to the next. He’s been successful.
Yesterday he was telling me another story about his time in WW2. He was in an outfit of seven guys and all across Europe they looked out for one another. One day Dad’s best friend, Ritchie, was missing. He was just gone.
“I searched for Ritchie for two days,” Dad says. “I went to every medical tent. I’d call out Ritchie! Ritchie!” Dad’s eyes fill with tears and he makes a choking sound.
I reach for his frail arm and hold on. “Oh, Dad, did you ever find him?”
“No,” he says. “I never saw Ritchie again.”
I am deeply honored Dad would share this with me as he’s never told me this before.
But a few emotional minutes later, Dad says, “He wrote me a letter after the war telling me he got married.”
My head snaps up. “You mean…Ritchie lived?”
“Oh, yeah. He was really happy.”
That’s when I remember Dad’s dementia. Did Ritchie exist? Sure. I believe he did. Did Dad search for two days? Sure. Why not? But Dad let me spend 4.7 minutes thinking poor Ritchie had died?
Yeah. And then he went on happily eating the strawberry sundae I’d brought him.
Well, I based my book, Running With Monkeys, on Dad’s post-war life. It’s loosely based. So loosely based it’s almost entirely made up. Let’s just say, Dad inspired me.