My dad’s favorite shows were Ed Sullivan and Lawrence Welk–but only while he was sick

I grew up with a dad who thought Lawrence Welk reruns about as interesting as mashed potatoes without gravy.  I remember him surfing channels with what little time he watched TV, and when he’d hit PBS at 7:00, he would look to make sure I was around and then stop.

The theme song would be playing.  He knew I hated the theme song.  He’d get up and dance.  It was just the most hilarious dance I’ve ever seen.  He would “partner dance” without a partner, spoofing the dancers on the Lawrence Welk floor.  One time, he surprised me and grabbed my hand and started dancing.

I can only ever dance with my daddy, I’ve found out.  Anybody else, and I’m a nervous wreck and stiff as a board.  But Dad could make a mannequin look like it had rhythm, I think.

Dad thought Lawrence Welk was ridiculous.

That is, until he got Lou Gehrig’s disease.

My dad had dementia, and not everybody has dementia with Lou Gehrig’s disease, but my dad did.  I watched this very puzzling and heartbreaking change in my father.

I got my dad a chunk of plaster from the original Ed Sullivan show off Ebay for his birthday.  What was I thinking, I don’t know.  I was trying–trying to . . connect to my new father.

But his changes didn’t stop at Lawrence Welk and Ed Sullivan.  He wasn’t funny anymore.  He didn’t seem to like me a lot of times.  He liked a stuffed dog I had, and pressed a button over and over to make it talk.  In fact, he even liked the real dog I had–and he wasn’t ever keen on dogs before (except Shelties, which I never had).

I am convinced from my father’s dementia that salvation is locked in the soul, not the mind or heart.  I don’t mean to say that I believe a person can never lose their salvation.  I don’t know about that–I wouldn’t try it.  But I do know that God, being the God that He is, protects our salvation in our souls, even when we can’t remember in our minds.

How do I know?

I know because God is good.  Jesus said about His followers,

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:29, ESV)

My father’s last words were written on a Magna-Doodle on September 22, 2004, to our pastor and music director who paid him a visit: “Pray for me.”

My dad literally lost everything about who he was . .  except his love for Christ.  And I don’t mean to say He even knew He had that love.  I don’t think he could have even explained who Christ was.  His mind was lost.

But something had caught in his mind.  It was the request he’d made over and over again, when he had known in his mind who Jesus was: Pray for me.

I refuse to pretend my father mentally had Jesus at the end of his life.

And I refuse to believe Jesus would ever let him go.

It isn’t even a refusal.  I know it more clearly than I know that the sky is blue.  If a husband can love a wife with Alzheimer’s, if a father can love his child after complete memory loss . . how can we ever question that God would love the person He died to save, even if they a disease has destroyed in their mind who He is?

I can smile now thinking about the Lawrence Welk theme song.  It reminds me that God’s love is big enough to save us–even when we don’t remember He’s our dance partner.
Hold on to me, take all of me
Don’t let me lose my way
Hold on to me

–Busted Heart, King & County

If I take the wings of the morning or live in the farthest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me and Your right hand will hold me. (Psalm 139:9-10, NLV)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

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