There are many common phrases using glue as the bond in a relationship and recently I heard the phrase “Velcro Relationship” but it was used with a negative connotation. This confused me; wouldn’t it be better to be Velcro?   Velcro we all know it as the hook and loop fastener that can keep everything together. It can be opened and adjusted and re-adhered back to its other side without losing its integrity. It doesn’t have to be dissolved or chiseled apart as glue would but is a tight bond that can be formed and then changed, just as relationships may adjust as they mold together. It can be loosened or tightened with any situation. Most importantly, Velcro depends on two edges or two people and both sides are equally important. My relationship with Papa is Velcro. I will hang on tightly to help him with whatever he needs, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t loosen my grip and take a breath every now and then before I reattach myself.

Papa used to buy rolls of Velcro to use in his shop, and he continues to use Velcro on a daily basis. The perfect example is footwear, Papa wears Velcro shoes. Velcro makes it easy for both the young and old to bend down and put on their shoes without having to worry about tripping if one loosened or become untied. Papa puts his shoes on in the morning and doesn’t have to worry about them again. Velcro is quick, it is strong, it is easy to pull apart at the end of the day, and is always ready to adhere to another tight grip when needed.

Papa has Velcro walking shoes and as the weather started warming up we got him a pair of Velcro sandals. Papa is always concerned about how he looks and while he is probably unaware that the new fashion trend is to wear socks with sandals he unknowingly fits right in. I am less concerned about any major fashion trends or faux pas concerning socks; I just want to make sure that he had something that he could wear walking that was tight around his ankles to minimize any opportunity for falls. Because we recently talked Papa into disposing of his stinky slippers, he decided he also wanted a pair of slip-on sandals to wear around the house.

Today was Father’s Day, and against my better judgment, we got Papa his first pair of Jordans.   A practical pair of slip on sandals with a Velcro strap to adjust to his wide foot.   He opened the box and was quite happy with his new shoes; they were just what he wanted. Like one of Cinderella’s stepsisters he was trying to squeeze them on his feet as Doug and I were both talking. I explained that he should not wear them on his longer walks, I was worried about them sliding off and I didn’t want him to trip. Doug mentioned that everyone loves Jordans and he better keep an eye on them as he travels because they might find their way on someone else’s feet. As we saw him trying to push his wide foot into the shoe Doug told him that he can adjust the Velcro to make it fit. Papa looked up at Doug and asked, “What is Velcro?”

Doug and I were a bit taken aback. Some days it hits us more than others as to how his memory has lost entire thoughts.   Maybe this simple question affected us differently today because it was Father’s Day and Doug had thoughts of his father in the past as the Marocco family provider, and I reminisced of my own Dad, as I remembered him from many years ago, when he was young and strong and in his late thirties.

We took a deep breath and made sure our relationship Velcro was tight before showing Papa how to open the strap and size the shoe to his foot. His foot slid right in to a perfect fit. We have to take each day for what it is, and today Papa knows what Velcro is and can easily work Velcro, he just doesn’t remember what it is called anymore.

If You Give Papa a Cookie…

Doug and I sat down with Papa, his calendar and a computer earlier this week to coordinate details for his summer trip. We made a few phone calls, developed a plan, and booked his plane tickets. Like Papa, his itinerary is not long or complicated; he wants to spend nondescript time in both Illinois and California to see all of his siblings, his favorite brother-in-law and the West Coast Maroccos. We have explained that once he gets the feel of flying we can fit more trips in-between all of his scheduled appointments but I know that this first trip will be the hardest on all of us. He is a bit nervous and of course we have some of the same apprehensions that we had when our children tried something new, something big, and we were not sure if they were ready for it or not. But we let our kids spread their wings and they were prepared every time, they passed all of the obstacles that came their way and while they may have different accounts of how we may have been a bit over protective here or there they were always independent and became worldly travelers at a young age. Papa is no different, Doug and I will be on edge from the moment we take him to O’Hare to put him on a flight until we hear he has arrived in San Diego, but deep down I know that he too will pass this test.   As Papa mentioned tonight, I won’t really be alone, there are other people on the plane, aren’t there?

Papa does not recall flying by himself, so like everything else if he does not remember, it never really happened. It is reassuring to me that he is very absolute in his thinking. He does not get frustrated trying to recall memories from the past that are lost in his brain. He does not get angry knowing that the facts are locked up inside just shy of being seen. He does not get upset wondering if he has or has not done something. He does not worry about things he cannot change, he says he doesn’t remember and moves on. In his mind he has never flown by himself, period. We know however that this is not actually the case, Papa has flown alone and I can clearly picture two instances that I wanted to share with him last night. I am sure that in addition to these, there has been another time or two he has ventured off alone over the years.

Nathan and Papa May 1984 - Somewhere in New Mexico...
Nathan and Papa
May 1984 – Somewhere in New Mexico…

In 1984 Papa drove across the country with Nathan and I to meet Doug at his first duty station.   It was a four-day trip with a four-month old in a Ford Escort with no air conditioning. The weather was very warm, and we received minimal relief from opening the pull vents as we traveled down the interstate. This is one of my favorite pictures of Nathan and Papa along the way. We did not stop at National Parks to stretch our legs like I would do today; we stopped at dingy rest areas, truck stops and a few diners. We drove, we talked and we ate while Nathan slept in the back seat. I remember stopping at a joint in Texas that had both jukeboxes and payphones in every booth. Papa, being a jokester decided to use the phone. We laid out all of our change on the table and called his nephew Tim who worked at their family cleaners in Glendale, Arizona. When Tim answered the phone Papa sang the Jefferson’s Movin’ On Up theme song and said This is George, Weezy and I are headed into town tomorrow. Papa does not remember this, but I can still hear Papa laughing out loud after his conversation with Tim. We shared driving, but it was easier on both of us when I drove so he could hear and carry on a conversation without all of the Huh? the Ehhhh? or the What did you say?   (His left ear is still his better ear). It was fun. He flew home by himself, a few days after seeing his father in San Diego and making sure Doug and his young family had been reunited.

Four Generations of Marocco Men
Four Generations of Marocco Men

In December 1988 Papa again flew out to visit us, alone, to spend his birthday and hopefully get to meet his first granddaughter. He spent a week playing with Nathan and asking us more times than we could count, Is it time? Is she ready? Will it happen today? Sadly our scheduling was off, Papa flew home late one afternoon and our independent Allison arrived several hours after his departure. He was disappointed knowing he was going to have to wait a few weeks to meet her, and when he did it was love at first sight.

Allison and Papa  January 1989
Allison and Papa
January 1989

Papa could hold any one of his grandchildren for hours and just look in their eyes as if they carried on a silent and secret conversation. He has always said I have the best family; there are some the same but none better than ours. He loves his brood and his grandchildren will always have a very special place in his heart. This is one of the few photographs we have a Papa with a beard, he didn’t remember that either and laughed at the grey when I showed him the picture.

Papa has flown and even with a few apprehensions he is looking forward to this trip. I don’t know what I would do without you guys, you take care of everything. We can plan a trip and try to think of every possible scenario, but unfortunately we will not be on the plane with him. Sure he has nonstop flights and wheelchair assistance starting at the airport check in counter, and I am certain that American Airlines will help him get through security and to the correct gate for his flight. What I worry about is what will happen while he is sitting at the gate and waiting, when there are extra minutes ticking away, teasing him, just waiting for him to become momentarily distracted. Papa will enjoy people watching once he is at the gate; he may talk to a few people around him. He will probably ask his neighbor the date and time to make sure his watch is correct and will definitely become enamored at some of the young children playing. As he is watching the kids he will happily remember that we packed him some snacks for his trip and will start snacking on a cookie or some chocolate covered raisins. He will be content. He may hear one of the moms ask her child if they have to go to the bathroom before the flight and it will remind Papa he should also look for the facilities.   He will find a restroom, probably not the closest or most convenient and may walk out and start heading the wrong way. He will see McDonald’s just up the terminal and decide he needs a chocolate shake. You get the picture, Papa is as easily distracted as the mouse in one of Laura Numeroff’s books as soon he has a cookie in his hand.

Papa will have a wonderful time visiting the best family in the world, but I think I better look for a new cell phone, one that he can hear ring, before he leaves so we can make sure he travels from point A to point B without incident.