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The Official Site of William S Peckham

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William S Peckham's Story of the Month

 

 

 

“No, I won’t do it, and you can’t make me.”

 These words were not from my three-year-old grandson, but were shouted by my eighty-three-year-old father.

I came through the front door and heard the rattling of pots and pans in the kitchen. He was putting clean pots and pans into the dishwasher.

          What in the world is going on? I wondered.

          “Dad, what are you doing?”

          “Nothing. Just mind your own business,” Dad snapped.

I had never heard him use a voice like that. It was filled with anger and hatred. I was frightened. Dad had been doing some peculiar things lately; I caught him trying to stuff a chair cushion into the washer on Sunday. When I asked him why he was doing that. He gave me a look that would wither a mighty pine tree… shrugged and walked away. His memory loss was becoming worse, and his peculiar doings were taking place more frequently. I knew it was time to do something to help him and me for that matter. He was driving me crazy.

          Guilt racked my consciousness; my dreams at night were of horrible places and things.

          “If you don’t do something soon he might hurt himself or someone else,” my wife, Jeanie, reminded me.

          “Dad, please come over here and let’s talk,” I suggested.

          “I won’t,” he said stamping his foot.

 "Yes, you will and now!" I commanded.

          “No!”

          “Yes!”

My patience was rapidly wearing thin, and I was afraid of losing my temper and saying or doing something I would regret.

          I faced him: With my hands on hips and eyes blazing, I stood toe to toe with my aged father: Neither one of us gave an inch. I was fuming; my sweat stained shirt clung to my back. The muscles in my jaw worked, as I shook with rage and frustration. Finally, sighing, I dropped into the chair in complete capitulation. Dad stomped out of the kitchen, slamming the door behind him. I had lost again.

What was I to do? I wondered if it was time to find a home in which he could be happy and safe. It would not be easy to sell him on the idea. I felt so helpless.

          That was yesterday… I am ashamed of my behaviour, but Dad seems to bring the worst out in me these days. I decided last night I would take him to a seniors’ home, one equipped to handle his problem. I felt guilty because I could no longer look after him.

          This once proud, pillar of the community, an organizer of people, a decisive leader in community affairs, is now reduced to an angry, confused and frustrated shadow of his former self.

          As we climbed into the car, I heard his soft voice, "Where are we going, son?”

He spoke to me, as he would have when I was nineteen. It is hard to believe this is the same man who was so angry with me yesterday that I was afraid he might strike me.

“We’re going to visit Pine Tree Manor,” I replied.

“You mean that old folks home? Are you putting me away?”

“I am not 'putting you away', as you put it. We're just going to look at an alternative lifestyle for you," I said diplomatically.

"Well, I am not ready for a pigeon hole yet," I heard him say, his voice raised and edgy.

“It’s Okay, Dad. We’re just going to look.”

“Well, I’m not going to like it.”

As we sat silently side-by-side, I was aware of my father's heavy breathing – through the corner of my eye I could see his clenched jaw. The sadness at the meaning of this day spread like a cancer through my whole being, and I started to shake… no… cry.

I remembered the many times I had the opportunity to hear him speak to a group. He held them in the palm of his hand; they nodded, applauded and agreed. He knew how to use words and how to sway a crowd. Those were wonderful times. I had learned so much about public speaking from his example.

Lately, Dad had trouble finding the correct word for almost anything. He stumbled and stammered trying to make a point unless he was angry… then the words flew… not always the kind of words I wanted to hear from 'my father'.

I was determined to hold onto the good times we had experienced over the years together and let that happiness pervade my soul. While in the car we talked about holidays, trips and so many things… laughing together like the old days. Dad really was a joy, and I loved him dearly.

We were headed to Pine Tree Manor, a seniors’ home rebuilt from the City’s former general hospital by the Salvation Army. My brother and I were born there; now my father would reside there.

Upon entering, we were met by Major Sparks, who showed us the amenities of the home…  the kitchen – the smell of dinner caught dad's attention, the dining room – with all the places set, then a room like the one Dad would occupy – warm and cosy, then the rec room. Tommy Spears, an old time fiddler and former employee of Dad’s, was playing for an enraptured audience. Dad’s face lit up as he waved to Tommy.

Someone called out, “Peck, over here. Come, sit at our table.”

“Jack? Jack Taylor… is that you?”

“Yep… sit down, Peck.”

The look on dad’s face was one of joy and recognition. As he sat, he asked, "Jack, do you live here?"

          “You bet I do.”

          “And Tommy… where does he live?”
          “Right here,” smiled Jack, “and you?”

          As Tommy played, “Five Foot Two”, Dad smiled and said, “Right here… now.”

Dad looked up at me with a broad grin and a sparkle in his eyes.

“It’s Okay, son, I like it here… could you pick me up a little later?”

Breathing a sigh of relief, I left Pine Tree Manor remembering that grin and the look of contentment on my father’s face… he was home.