Dec 26, 2012

Christmas Without Dotty

You cannot change the past, but you can change the future, and I fully intend to do so.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Christmas Without Dotty
This article could have been entitled Christmas without parents. This was my first Christmas without my dad, Frank, and my mother, Dotty.

I often wondered how I would feel without parents. I found out in the last week as I often thought about both Frank and Dotty and our long lives together. I thought about them constantly.

While thinking about my parents, I realized that I had spent every Christmas with the exception of one, 1976, with my parents. I made it home even though from the time I was 21 years old I lived far away from them.

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My Dad died 20 years ago, so I spent every Christmas from that time with my mom, Dotty. Until now.

One year it turned out I had to go to San Diego, California on short notice a few days before Christmas. This was problematic. It turned out I would fly to San Diego, spend the night and day and night, and then fly to New York, and then immediately fly to West Palm Beach, Florida.

When I woke up in San Diego at 4 AM and turned on the television I learned that there had been a massive snow storm on the east coast (Philadelphia, New York, Boston) and the airports were closed. It appeared that I would be unable to make it back to New York that day. And then, unlikely that I would make it to Florida for Christmas.

I decided I would fly from San Diego to Florida and this started what turned out to be one hair raising day.

I first flew to Phoenix, then learned it was impossible to fly directly to Florida as hoped. However, there was an available flight leaving for Atlanta in ten minutes. The red coat (the supervisor in those days) informed me I couldn't make it because of my baggage.

Big break number one. It turns out when I learned I had to fly to San Diego I put all my cloths in a box and shipped them via UPS to Florida.

I ran as fast as I could and made it to the plane as they were getting ready to close the door. Was my mission accomplished? Not even close.

When I arrived in Atlanta it was chaos. There were thousands of people sitting on the floor all stranded. As it turned out, all the equipment (airplanes) were trapped up North and were not yet flying. So, nobody that was booked on those planes was going anywhere.

I got into a long line and after more than an hour I learned there was no possible way I was flying to Florida that night, and most likely not even the next day.

What to do? There were no cars to rent, they were all taken by astute travelers that decided, correctly, to drive to their destination. Did you ever see the movie - Planes Trains, and Automobiles? Great movie.

At that point, I asked for and finally found the biggest "red coat" of them all. The supervisor of supervisors.

I explained my situation including that simple fact that my then 80 year old mommy was going to be alone on Christmas for the first time if I didn't make it.

He told me where to sit and said he would see what he could do. After 30 minutes he told me it didn't look good. He told me where to stay, and he would keep trying

Finally after two hours he came and found me and told me, you have one long shot chance and that is it for the next few days. He said, I might make it on to the last flight.

He said, I have a family with three young children and I have to get them on this flight - the last flight. He then said, you might get lucky and make it on. He said, "we have so many people flying all over the place that we don't have an exact count on how many are getting off the plane".

I stood near the gate, heart pounding, people arguing and complaining, and waited. The family of five made it.

Then big break number two, they called my name and said, that's it. The entire place was in an uproar like you wouldn't believe, I was on my way to south Florida.

I called my mother from one of those plane phones and told her, I made it. I told her not to worry I would make it to Delray Beach on my own. Dotty? No way, she said, I gave her the flight number and information and she was waiting for me at the airport when I arrived. Dotty was 80 years old.

I made it home for Christmas.

I came home permanently on November 17, 2003. Dotty went to Heaven on May 25, 2012.

So here I am -- home. Certainly ironic it seems to me.

My brother Billy and sister Joanne are quite a bit older than me. After they both left home I was what best could be described as an only child. I spent a lot of time with Dot and Frank.

One year I said I wanted to go to the newly opened Houston Astrodome to see a baseball game. So away we went during my father's vacation. We went to Houston, New Orleans, and even Biloxi, Mississpi during the height of the civil rights movement. Ugly. Old men walking around the streets and standing on the corners holding baseball bats.

Did I mention we took this entire trip by car? It was about 1350 miles each way to Houston alone.

My father taught me how to drive during that trip and I obtained my licence several week later.

As you might imagine I have many hundreds of family stories and they have all been flying through my head this week.

I have been shedding quite a lot of tears. Even when I was in the grocery store and started thinking.

Just so you know, I am a little sad and a little lonely. But, the sadness is more than trumped by all the happy memories.

I said I feel a little lonely. Don't mistake that for being alone. I do not feel like I am alone. I am not alone. I still have Frank and Dotty with me.

During the course of my adult life I have reinvented myself each decade, about every ten years.

This is about to happen again. I'm looking forward to it. I'm ready to start "rocking' in 2013. And rock, I will.

I had many difficult periods during my life. Once during my worst period I called my Dad to talk to him. I described my situation. Frank had a wonderful way of reducing everything down to the lowest common denominator.

At that time he told me, Bobby you will always have a roof over your head and three square meals. This was his way of telling me if worse comes to worse you can always "come back home".

Well I am back home. So when the going gets rough, if it does, I will remember all the little lessons my Dad taught me.

If I get confused or feel like quitting, I'll remember Dotty's tenacity.

They have a saying that "you can never go home again". I think that means things change and then can never be quite the same again. It also has to do with the way you perceive the past.

Well I'm home. I have the memories of my childhood, adulthood, family and friends. No one can take that away from me.

As for the future? I intend to make some changes. There will be some changes on the Alzheimer's Reading Room. This happens every year.

I intend to make change in the Alzheimer's and dementia communities.

I'll do some things very differently than most people might expect. I always have.

I'm ready to rock and reinvent myself again.

I might get lonely or even sad. But I now know I'll never be alone. I have Dotty and Frank right here with me in my head and heart. If the going gets tough I'll call them up.

To Mom and Dad. I'm ready to move forward and make some positive change. I fully intend to take you with me.

Okay Frank and Dotty, here we go again. Future here we come.

You cannot change the past, but you can change the future. I fully intend to do so.

After all, I have been changing the future all my life.

Thanks to all the readers of the Alzheimer's Reading Room. You really made a difference in my life. A positive difference.

Advice and Insight into Alzheimer's and Dementia

Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The ARR knowledge base contains more than 3,811 articles with more than 306,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room