The Car Trick

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

My dad loves cars. Maybe it's just part of his generation, or driving his father to tent revivals when he was underage, or wrecking his first car before he was a teenager (or before leaving the driveway), or maybe his job in automotive manufacturing. However it was formed, he was obsessed. He kept photos of every car he had ever known (oh, the Scouts and the Travelalls!), and he subscribed to Motor Trend magazine (and kept the back issues!) for almost as many decades as he's been alive (and if anyone wants them....).

He taught my mother to drive, his children, his grandchildren. He bought my son his first "car," the battery-powered kind that a toddler could drive around the yard, as captured in this photo of my son, his father, his grandfather, and his great-grandmother (who used to watch him and wave from the window). If any of us said we got him a present -- Father's Day, Christmas, birthday, etc. -- he'd always ask, "Is it red? Does the top go up and down?"

All of those who love him have known that taking his car away would be among the most challenging things to do as his dementia progressed. He loves to drive even though he can no longer remember the names of the streets or how to get to places he's known for at least seven decades. But as he keeps getting lost and dealing with severe stress headaches when driving -- likely because he doesn't know where he's going -- we all knew that it had to happen.

Today was the day, though no one told him he couldn't drive anymore. We tried a different angle. My father adores my son, his first grandson, born after he retired. His retirement job was caring for my son, from the days in diapers all the way to picking him up after high school basketball practice or tennis matches. They've always been buddies.

My son graduated from college this past spring. At first, he kept his college job post-graduation. But as he's begun looking for other jobs, not having a vehicle has been a challenge. My son called my father to ask if he could buy his car from him, and my father agreed. Of course he had no memory of that minutes later, but when my son came to get the car, we reminded him that he had agreed to part with it. While he was reluctant at first, he said he would give it to him as long as he could teach my son how to care of it. Everyone agreed.

Now when he asks where his car is, our answer will be, "You gave it to your grandson, since he needed a car." The hope is that he'll be so happy he helped his grandson solve a problem that he won't notice so much that he's not driving anymore. Will the car trick work? We'll see.

#dementia #dementiacare

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