One evening I was driving Dad back to his assisted living residence after dinner at my house. There was a big full moon in the sky and we both commented on how beautiful it was. After a minute, Dad asked hesitantly “We did put a man on the moon, didn’t we?”
I was stunned, sure I’d heard him wrong… and my heart sank. There was no way that my Dad didn’t know this! Dad and had I shared a strong interest in science fiction ever since I could read. We both loved aviation and space travel in particular. When he asked that question, the nagging suspicions I’d been having about his memory problems came on full force. I could hear that he was unsure about what he thought he knew, and I realized for sure then that parts of his memory were failing him.
In order to disguise my dismay and diffuse any embarrassment on his part…because I could hear the uncertainty in his voice, I went to a fairly recent event. “Remember watching that DVD movie at my house Dad – Apollo 13? It starred actor Tom Hanks.”
It was about the thirteenth US mission to the moon. I was amazed at how suspenseful and exciting the movie was, even though we already knew how it would end because we lived through it back in 1970!
“In the movie everyone gathered around that one small black and white TV screen. They all watched a live broadcast of astronaut Neil Armstrong making that “one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind”. He had stepped down onto the surface of the moon! We cheered while we were watching the movie, especially when Apollo 13 landed back on earth ok! The fact that the whole story actually happened was amazing. I remember you were so proud of our space program.”
I could see Dad’s face light up as he envisioned the black and white TV, and began to remember or fill in watching the moon landing. I guess something clicked in his mind and I was so relieved that he was relieved.
I don’t know if bringing up the movie was the best approach, but it seemed to help summon some good feelings associated with watching the movie. Even more I think it helped him answer his own tentative question. We had shared an event, and whether he remembered the real time or just remembered watching the movie, and I felt like it renewed his knowledge of the actual history.
But a lot of sobering thoughts rode with me as I drove home that night.
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