Pete and I would walk in Room 309. Dad would be resting his eyes. "Hey, Dad!" My Dad, even in the nursing home suffering with dementia, was full of inner pep. "Heya, there," he'd reply. "It's Rust, Dad." "Oh, yeah-Rust... hi, Rust."
Course any of you who've dealt with people who suffer with dementia and Alzheimer's know it's hard to tell if they really know who you are. But that's not important , it's important they be engaged. I was one of the few people I feel dad actually recognized; Myself and my Mom. So then I'd say, "And I got Pete here with me." Dad would wonder, "Who?" "Pete, you know."
Course I was setting Dad up, cause Pete and I had grown to know what was coming next, and what was coming next made Pete melt like you've never seen. Dad would think for a second, smile and say, "Pete. Oh, Pete ... Pete Hartt. Yeah, oh, how are you doing Pete Hartt?" "Good Bill," Pete would say smiling, and as bright and proud and happy as Pete Hartt has ever been.
Like I said, we'd spend two, three hours with Dad. Pete wouldn't budge, he was comfortable as can be. I'd play music, we'd all sing (Pete loved to sing), and Pete talked with Dad about whatever. Pete was a quick study on how to communicate with folks burdened with dementia and Alzheimer's; He'd go with the dream.
Pete spoon-fed dad sherbet and chocolate ice cream, carefully dabbing Dad's lip every bite or two with a crumpled paper towel. "That taste good?" Pete would ask. "It's delicious,"Dad would reply, "and, you're-Pete, right?" "Yes Bill." A wave of contentment would relax Dad's face, "Yeah, that's right, Pete. Pete Hartt."
Utility writer? Yes. Gifted creative writer? Yes. Athlete? You bet, better than most. Intellectual powerhouse? Yup. Brilliant comedian? Yes. Teacher? Yeah. Brother, uncle, son, mate? The best.
Good loyal friend? You have no idea.
That's Pete. Pete Hartt.
Rusty DeWees tours Vermont and Northern New York with his act "The Logger." His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for The Logger, Rusty DeWees, Thursdays at 7:40 on the Big Station, 98.9 WOKO or visit his website at www.thelogger.com