A tribute to Doug Timgren
I extend my arm and grasp that large familiar hand in mine. Hands. Strength. Safety. Assurance. Love. All of these words ripple through my mind, mingling with memories. It’s amazing how one action, so casual and quick, is yet so comforting and connecting.
One of the earliest recollections I have of my childhood involves those very hands. I remember waking excitedly on Saturday mornings and eating my breakfast quickly so we could leave – my Dad and me. We would set out walking hand in hand, his large strong one grasping my small one. I felt that everything was right with my world and that I was invincible with my Dad holding my hand in his. I had to run to match my father’s gait. He did not slow down for me but rather grasped my hand firmly and pulled me along. In my mind’s eye it is a sunny, beautiful morning. I’m sure we went many days in poor or wintery weather, but those days do not exist in my rose-coloured lenses through which I look back. We walked through the park where children had already begun to play their games. I paid no attention to them because we were on an adventure – my Dad and me. Soon we arrived at the public library. The huge wooden doors marked the entrance to a whole world of wonder and fascination. It was with a strangely beating heart and anticipation that I would enter. This was like a secret treasure-trove, one that we experienced and shared together – my Dad and me. It was our place; a place that my brothers scoffed at in their ignorance. If only they knew of its real value they would want to come too. It was a lesson they never learned, so thankfully this memory remains unsullied by sibling interference. It was here that my father introduced me to the world of books instilling in me an unquenchable desire for reading, for learning, for discovery, and the immeasurable pleasure of living unashamedly vicariously through fantastic characters. My father would leave me in the children’s section to explore on my own while he went to the history section. Time seemed suspended in this hushed and dusty world. We would share the excitement of our finds on the way home. We enjoyed the walk back even though we both wanted nothing more than to find a quiet spot and read our books. My Dad knew so much about so many things and seemed to know the definition of every word. All of this he said he learned through reading books. Facts, information, and words for crossword puzzles came quickly and easily to my father’s mind.
The disparity of that memory juxtaposed against the current reality jarred my mind back to the present. Words no longer come quickly or easily. Even the most rudimentary words are sometimes incomprehensible to my Dad. Instead of a mind expanding experience, books have become mere props to be held open. Somewhere deep inside is an acknowledgment of the value and place books have held because a book is often in my Dad’s hand; yet their real power - like to my brothers when I was young – now escapes my Dad’s consciousness. Alzheimer’s. Gut wrenching. Merciless. Stealer of words and thoughts and memories.
My Dad hesitates on the walkway and as he does he loses his point of reference. Without a short-term memory he can’t remember if he is walking to or from the house. I see his momentary hesitation; I see confusion cross his face. Unable to articulate his predicament he stands there and looks at me. The time has come that my small hand must take my Dad’s large one firmly to lead the way; to make things all right, for the moment, in his world. So I immediately smile and extend my hand and ask if he would like to walk hand in hand with me. Always the gentleman, he responds that he would like that very much. I extend my arm and grasp that large familiar hand in mine. Hands. Strength. Safety. Assurance. Love. Hand in hand, we don’t need words. Love and relationship go much deeper than words. We walk together, my steps slowing to match his. We are on a different adventure now – my Dad and me.
© Janey Bordihn