I was reading the newspaper. She was digging her fingernails into the skin of an orange and removing small chunk after small chunk of rind. Eventually she got to pulling away the stringy pith. Juice ran down her hands. I told her I would have sliced the orange for her, if she had asked.
“One of my friends puts the orange in his mouth and bites the skin off,” she told me.
“You know who else does that?” I asked, suddenly remembering. “Your Grandpa.”
From my childhood all the way into my adulthood, my Dad would bite into the skin to start peeling an orange. Often he could peel the entire fruit in one intact piece. He probably started perfecting his trick in childhood, maybe about the age of 9, Sabrina’s age. It’s something I never picked up.
Sabrina was mildly impressed. “Do you think he still does?” she asked.
What a good question.
I wondered. I wonder, still. Is orange-peeling a skill that dementia would allow? Is it a habit so well-ingrained as to not be taken from my Dad by his disease? He can’t reliably recognize his grandchild, or child, or wife. But I bet he can still peel oranges.
So instead of getting all sad about how oranges have made a longer-lasting impression on my Dad than I have, I look at that piece of fruit and say a quiet little ‘thank you’ for the memories.
To my daughter, I say: “I think he probably does.”