At seven o’clock in the evening, Dad was already thinking about going to bed. He took a yellow pill out of the basket near the fridge, and got a glass of water to wash it down.
“I don’t like taking pills, but they help my brain,” he told me.
Maybe because I was visiting, Dad stayed up a little longer to play the piano, and I wandered into the living room to sit with him. I don’t know if he remembered the four hand arrangement of “Tea for Two” we used to play. We would laugh when we got out of sync, and pretend to push each other off the piano bench.
He picked out the melody of an Irving Berlin tune and added a few chords, all with his right hand. He didn’t use his left hand much anymore.
“How deep is the ocean, how high is the sky…” I sang along. I still loved it when he played.
“Do you think your son could read this?” Dad gestured to the music. I could tell he was confusing me with my sister, whose son is learning to play the piano. I don’t have a son.
“I think he could read the melody, Dad,” I told him, not knowing what else to say. He headed off to bed. I went back into the kitchen and looked at the medicines in the basket.
“The neurologist gave your father something for his memory,” Mom had told me two years before. That something was Aricept, the yellow pill Dad took every night. At first, Mom had thought he might be improving.
“He seems a little happier,” she’d told me on the phone after he’d been taking the medicine a few weeks. Maybe she was right, but I never heard any improvement when I talked with him. Instead, I heard his increasing frustration as he groped for words. I don’t think Aricept helped Dad at all.