The last Father’s Day that I spent with my dad, Don Patrick Desonier, occurred on June 17th, 2007. That year had been a definitive year in my father’s decline from Alzheimer’s so I didn’t need to be prescient to know that his time to escape the disease was drawing nigh. (Additionally, it didn’t help that his inoperable prostate cancer had decided to grace his body – like it needed something else to assault it.) I would normally not leave my husband to his own devices on Father’s Day – he’s a terrific dad and deserves to be spoiled – but I knew his adult daughters would give him his due so I left our Redmond, Washington home and flew down to Medford, Oregon for this mid-June celebration with my dad.
We enjoyed a subdued Father’s Day breakfast in the memory care unit’s dining room. My father didn’t eat all that much but he seemed to enjoy the ritual of sitting with his fellow memory-impaired friends as smiles and congratulations circled the table.
Those of you who are familiar with a memory care unit of an assisted living facility are also acquainted with the dearth of engaging activities therein, especially when your loved one can no longer participate in a meaningful way. Because of that dilemma, I always took my father “off campus” to take a walk at a nearby park. Mind you – his ability to ambulate was hindered, but we usually managed to walk the full perimeter, as we did that day. June in Medford, Oregon is H-O-T, but like many older people whose inner thermometer doesn’t seem to be working at full power – my father was dressed in a long-sleeved heavy cotton shirt buttoned right up to the neck, and an old standby wool cardigan – one of his faves.
Part way through our walk, I somehow convinced dad to at least take off his sweater, and to enjoy some hydration from the bottled water I always carried with me. Shortly thereafter, two 20-something year old men on bicycles approached on the path in our direction; they slowed down and before they passed us one of them uttered, “Happy Father’s Day, Sir!” Dad wasn’t quite aware of what they said but I reiterated their greeting, “Dad, they said Happy Father’s Day to you – isn’t that nice?” “Yes, Irene, it really was.”
Fast forward to June 16th, 2013; this adult daughter still remembers, and cherishes, the random act of kindness by those young men. It made my day in June 2007, and it’s made my day ever since. I’ve never forgotten your greeting, given to an old man who had certainly experienced many Father’s Day events in his 89 years. Thank you – bike riders at Hawthorne Park, on Main Street, Medford, Oregon. I hope you will always be on the receiving end of timely acts of kindness.
You are my heroes because you are ordinary people who did the ordinary right thing on June 17, 2007, making my dad’s last Father’s Day an extraordinary time.
Don Patrick Desonier:
March 12, 1918 – October 13, 2007