"I want to go home." How many times in our lives have we said that simple sentence? My dad, he says it all the time. Going home to many with Alzheimer's disease is wanting to return to their childhood home. Dad wants to go home to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he was born and raised. I had the chance to take him one day this week and he was thrilled.
The first stop we had to make was at Antioch Cemetery where my dad's parents and brother are buried. It's a small cemetery next to the Old Union Primitive Baptist Church. The church itself has family connections. My great-grandmother attended school in this one room schoolhouse/church. I don't know when the building was built, but my great-grandmother was born in 1879 so it had to have been built in the late 1870's to early 1880's. One other pretty cool thing I learned while researching the church and cemetery is that my great-grandmother's middle name was Kathryn. My name is spelled differently and I wasn't named after her, but I still like the fact that we have the same name.
The church doors are always unlocked, so after parking my dad in a lawn chair with a snack I went inside for some pictures. The interior is painted a soft green. The only furniture is the pews, pulpit, and an old upright piano. As I pulled back the dust cover and opened the little door that led to the piano workings, I wondered how many times these hammers have struck the strings.
I wondered how many songs have been played on this old piano while worshipping our Lord. The red songbooks that were scattered around the pews were called "The Good Old Songs; The cream of the old music" It was compiled by Elder C. H. Cayce with a copyright date of 1914. I picked up a hymnal and if fell open to the song "Happy Day." That's a good title for this day with my dad.
My dad doesn't really understand my need to photograph things. When I stopped in the middle of a bridge and took a picture of the creek below he was really quite confused. I was safe about stopping. On the eight miles we drove after we turned off the main highway we didn't see a single car. It's pretty isolated out there. After I'd taken pictures of the church, the cemetery, and the creek, he wasn't too surprised when I pulled over and took a few pictures of an old barn. None of the pictures turned out very good. The day was overcast and dark and I had other camera issues. Mainly, I pulled out my big camera, started to take a picture, and there on the back was the flashing words "NO CARD!" Frustrating! When will I ever learn to check my camera before I leave! I did have my point and shoot camera with me, but honestly, it's just about worn out and doesn't take great pictures anymore. At least I have pictures to go with the memory of "going home" even if they are dark and grainy!
There used to be an old fire tower on the mountain in the distance. All the teenagers, including my mom and dad used to picnic up there and climb the tower. My great-grandmother's land was on the other side of the mountain.
There are certain rituals that one must keep when you have Alzheimer's. Every time dad goes to Hot Springs he wants to picnic at Gulpha Gorge which is part of Hot Springs National Park. The park is in the deep canyon between Hot Springs Mountain and Indian Mountain which is rich in history and legends. Once such legend tells of an old Indian Chief who had been in poor health and had come to the Valley of the Vapors for relief from his affliction. The Valley of the Vapors is what is know today as Hot Springs National Park. As the name implies the springs in Hot Springs are just that, HOT springs. The water flowing out of the springs is about 143 degrees. Anyway, back to the story. The hot springs didn't help him and that night his illness became more severe causing acute pain. His daughter led him to another valley in search of cool water. After drinking this cool water, which by the way is high in calcium, he fell asleep and woke cured of his illness. He renamed his daughter Chewaukla, which means "Sleepy Water" and the springs were known thereafter as Chewaukla Springs.
Our next adventure was to drive up Hot Springs Mountain to the tower. The tower is 216 feet high. I had to laugh. I think we made history as the fastest people to go up the tower, walk around the observation deck, and descend. Dad walked around the observation deck one time and said "I guess we've seen all we need to see."
I remember as a child we'd go up the mountain and climb a 165 foot steel structure. I mean climb, as there was no elevator. I can still remember my shaking knees. Dad and I were thankful that there is an elevator in the newer tower.
(postcard of the mountain tower found on the internet)
On a clear day you're supposed to be able to see for 140 miles. Considering my eyes and the cloudy day, I didn't see near that far! Do you see the clearing right in the center of the upper portion of the picture below? That's the Hot Springs airport. My mother and her family lived just a little east of the airport.
We have a fun day and make some good memories. I was saddened that my dad is beginning to lose some of his memories of Hot Springs. Several times he questioned my route because he couldn't remember how to get from one place to another. Oh, and if you want to know, I know where all the bathrooms are between here and there! You have to take your time when you're traveling with the elderly.
Thanks for going along with me on this little trip down memory lane!