the horses are on the track

Dad’s ride to the OTB

Chapter 2. (For chapter one, click here)

Dad had no trouble getting into my car, despite it being an SUV. (Actually, I think it’s almost easier for him because it does not require him to bend his knees at all, he just slides his butt into it.) He even put on his seatbelt which in some ways says more about his dementia than anything else. He has spent a good portion of his life flaunting this law because it was “uncomfortable”. I told him that we didn’t need the wheelchair because he was not getting out of the car until we got back to the nursing home.

Anyhoo, there we were, on the road up to Hillsdale NY, on Rte. 41. This is a typical New England road, hilly, twisty and quite scenic. At one point you pass by “Hairy coos” otherwise known as Highland cows. As we were driving, dad got out his wallet and started counting his money. After he finished he sat there quietly in the passenger seat. Then he asked me, “Do you have any cash?”

“I don’t know, I’d have to look.”

A pause.

“How much you got?”

“Well dad, I probably don’t have much right now, maybe about $20.”

“Well fork it over.”

I’m trying not to giggle too hard at this as I ask him,

“Wait, I’m supposed to supply you with cash for your gambling?”

“Yes.”

“Huh”, I said, continuing to giggle.

A longer pause this time before he says,

“What other type of money do you have.”

Snorting out loud I said,

“Uh, dad, I am soooooo not giving you my credit card.”

He was quietly miffed at this.

When we made it to the OTB, which resides in a strip mall, all the spaces close to the door were taken. This did not stop my dad from telling me to park in that spot in front of the door, “The one with the yellow X.”

“Dad, I am not parking in a no-parking zone.”

“Yes, just park there and I will go in and place my bet and you can stay in the car.”

Classic George Vincent style…rules were made for everyone but him.

He was not happy when I told him he was not getting out of the car, that I would go in and make his bet for him. We spent about 15 minutes figuring out what he was going to bet and this is where I saw some of the real effects of the dementia. The man who could make bets blindfolded had difficulty remembering what he had said two minutes previously. BUT, he managed to come up with two bets, one for $20 on the number 5 horse and one for $20 on the number 10. (Neither one was California Chrome, my dad never was into betting the favorite, especially a horse going off at 4-5.)

I then took his money and went in and made his bets for him. I gave him his tickets which he stashed away in his shirt pocket and we drove back down the line to the nursing home. He had no problems getting out of the car, and I had him wheeled back up to his room for a nap before dinner.

For those of you who want to know, dad didn’t win a dime that day. In fact he wasn’t even really sure of what was pre-race fluff and what was the actual race. But that didn’t really matter. What mattered is that I gave him another chance to go do something that was a part of his psyche. Something that gave him pleasure (and disgust when he lost) for so many years. I am grateful I didn’t turn him down, and I am grateful for the nurses for encouraging me to take him for a drive. I’m sorry that the $20 the nurse put on California Chrome didn’t pay off…both for her sake and for the fact that it would have been exciting to see another Triple Crown. But that’s horse racing for you…sometimes it’s the anticipation that is the best part.

Dad (and me) in his racing heyday
Dad with the green tie and me in the red shirt in the winner’s circle for his horse in 1985.

 

 

4 thoughts on “the horses are on the track

  1. “Fork it over” – haha, that made me laugh! And your father looks so dapper in the photo in your earlier post. My grandmother had dementia so I know how difficult it can be, with moments when the memory is intact and moments when its not. It’s wonderful that you had such a lovely time together and you were able to bring him out to the tracks that day- he’s lucky to have such a great daughter.

    1. Thank you. Dementia can be just as confusing for those watching it as it is for those who have it. It is difficult to know from one moment to the next where the person resides in their head.
      I am lucky to have a father who provides such great stories!

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