The person who can most make Rich smile is our granddaughter, Allison, age six. For Ally, the sun rises and sets in her Papa. Eight months ago, our oldest daughter, Tara, and Ally, moved in with us to help with this whole “living with FTD” thing. We didn’t know it was FTD at the time, but that didn’t mean things were okay, just because there wasn’t a diagnosis. The house was “a tomb” before they came. Their presence has put some light back in the house.
Last weekend, Rich bought Ally a little necklace with two dolphins on it. Ally said, “Look Papa, I’m riding on your back.” I told her that she could get her necklace wet, but she wanted to take it off to get in the shower because as she told me, “it is very precious, Grandma.” Ally’s amazing vocabulary constantly blows us all away.
When Rich gets really upset, something that we have come to call “going sideways,” he tends to gravitate toward a couple of places — the walk-in closet floor or his gym, which is a separate room in the garage. He lays on the floor in a fetal position and rocks and sobs.
Last week, when he was very sideways he disappeared and I went looking for him. I always start with the closet as he feels safer in there. I found Rich laying on the floor with Ally sitting quietly next to him rubbing his head. She was holding a picture of the two of them that usually sits on a shelf in the closet. It was taken last December when we went for a walk. Ally had three teddy bears stuffed into her parka. I remember we went for the walk because Rich was having a really hard time that day.
When I entered the closet, I pulled up the little Rubbermaid stool and I whispered in Ally’s ear, “I have him now, you can go.” Ally turned her little face up to me and with deep sincerity radiating in her huge blue eyes, she said, “I want to help, Grandma.” She got up and pulled the other Rubbermaid stool next to mine. We sat together next to Rich with me rubbing his back and Ally gently touching his bald head. She was still clutching the picture of the two of them. Later, Rich told me that his heart was touched by the depth of Ally’s compassion and gentle caring.