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Before Dementia: Part 3 – Magic and Leprechauns

Tracy, the Leprechaun, visited us every year on March 17. He left yellowed notes on tiny scraps of paper each year, handwritten in a left-handed cursive that was difficult to decipher. Tracy complimented Maddie on her schoolwork and promised to visit again the following year. He left green footprints on her window sill. And he sometimes streaked prints across the wooden floor in the living room, clearly in a hurry.

Our daughter is a believer. She believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and leprechauns much longer than her peers. We supported her faith. We wanted her world to be fantastic and magical, and understood the enchantment would eventually wane. (It’s incredible that a belief we hold for just a few years – Santa Claus – features so prominently in our psyches for the rest of our lives. We all need magic.)

Maddie was a year younger than most of her friends in school. We feared that someone older and wiser, maybe a 9-year-old!, would puncture the balloon of magic we’d inflated around her.

Illusive Leprechauns

Maddie never caught Tracy. It didn’t matter how ingenious her leprechaun trap was. Maddie might line her trap with lucky charms, the air sprinkled with powdered sugar, or she might site a bucket of gold at the end of a paper towel tube. Tracy always managed to trip the trap and still escape unscathed and triumphant, only to be forgotten until early March the following year.

A plan is hatched

In the year of fourth grade, one of Maddie’s friends, Evie, was losing faith. Evie was about nine months older than Maddie. And though she loved magic, reality encroached. Evie’s leprechaun trap, an annual school assignment, was a bit half-hearted. And she was dispirited by Tracy’s failure to appear at her house each year. Evidence was mounting.

Robert hatched a plan to ensure that Evie enjoyed the same remarkable proof that kept belief alive for our daughter all those years. At dusk on March 16th, he went to Evie’s house, crept along the creaking front porch, and left a trail of sprinkled, golden, leprechaun dust on the steps. At the end of the trail, he placed a tiny green box, decorated with shamrocks. Inside the box was a note from “Shannon.” Evie had a leprechaun of her own!

The man we are losing

Robert returned home from Evie’s house quiet and reflective. “How did it go?” I asked.

“Everything turned out fine. But it occurred to me that if anyone had found me lurking among the camellias with my knees muddied as I crouched on my approach to the front door, it might have been hard to explain.” Indeed.

Robert lived an unfiltered life in the very best of ways. He always went to extraordinary lengths to make a child’s world a little brighter without a lot of concern about what the adult perceptions of his efforts might be.

This is the man I have loved. This is the man we are losing.

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