Previously: It is December 1995, and Daddy (aka J. Boyd Wright) has traveled to Brooklyn, N.Y. by train to spend Christmas — the first since my mom passed away — with our family. I yearned to attribute the confusion and forgetfulness I had noticed to being in new and very different surroundings, but then ...

The first few days he was with us we continued our fast-paced city life, and Daddy, who had always been a hard worker (that’s a requirement for a farmer) joined right in. He seemed to enjoy all the special Christmas activities at the church, especially when the neighborhood kids were involved. On Thursday, we took a day off to sightsee: a combination of riding in congested traffic in our mini-van, occasional short walks, and as the grand finale, a ride on the Staten Island Ferry.

We pointed out famous landmarks such as the Empire State Building, the United Nations, Macy’s flagship store, the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, the twin towers of the World Trade Center. His typical response was, “I’ve heard of that” or “uh-huh.” Not too much excitement, but then Daddy had always displayed a quiet and gentle spirit. However, he did seem somewhat excited when we boarded the ferry — certainly the largest boat he had ever embarked — which was jam-packed with vehicles and throngs of commuters. As soon as the boat pulled away from the terminal, we left the van and walked upstairs to the outdoor deck to stake a spot along the railing, ensuring the best view of the magnificent nighttime Manhattan skyline.

On the five-mile excursion, we passed close to the Statue of Liberty and posed for photos with the Lady in the background. Bundled up to ward off the chilly breeze, Daddy’s cheeks turned rosy but he declared he was “warm enough.” J. Boyd had never been one to complain. Even when we had to transfer to another ferry for the return trip, Daddy took the assertive crowd in stride, his cane at his side and a smile on his face.

It was about ten o’clock when we arrived home. I prepared a snack for everyone (we had introduced Daddy to his first New York pizza, which he relished before the ferry ride.) As we sat around our dining table, sipping cups of hot chocolate and nibbling on Christmas cookies, the children recalled the day’s events. Amy and Emily loved the ice skaters at Rockefeller Center. Rachel admitted she missed the city lights, but acknowledged that she had a striking view of the sunset every night from the window in her upstairs bedroom at Grandpa’s house. Benjamin was impressed by the Statue of Liberty, noting that no matter how many times you see her, she is always captivating. Randy was thankful to be out of the congested traffic. I was basking in the warm glow of the Christmas season and especially the delight of having Daddy with us. It was a dream come true.

“Daddy, what was your favorite part of our sightseeing tour?” I asked, expecting him to choose the ride on the ferry.

“Umm …” I supposed he was having a difficult time choosing just one.

“What did you think about riding on that big boat in New York Harbor?” I pressed.

“Well, did we ride a boat? I don’t remember being on a boat,” Daddy responded matter-of-factly.

At that moment, I realized that I could not continue attributing Daddy’s confusion and forgetfulness to a change in environment. He had not retained any memories of all the notable places we had gone that day. I had made wonderful memories, and I would keep them; but this development made me wonder what the future would hold for our family.

Conclusion is next week ...

Ruth Z. W. Johnson is an author, columnist and speaker who has served as both a family caregiver and a nurse in long-term care. She is available to share her experiences and knowledge of caregiving with groups, both small and large. She welcomes your caregiving comments and questions. Letters published only with reader’s consent. Contact her at or P.O. Box 125, Alamance, NC 27201.