HOW TO DEAL WITH A PARENT OR BOSS SUFFERING FROM DEMENTIA

Dementia is a dreary affair or topic in life, much less a blog.

My readers will appreciate that I have tried to dress it up by adding all kind of stories about nostalgic New York, travelogues on Kansas, Japan, the Bahamas, and Lithuania, multiple marriages, the America’s Cup, and business school write-ups of niche industries.

Kudzu-eating goats even pitched in to help me out on my last entry, THE FINEST ESCAPE, PART 2.

But dementia remains the overriding issue that I have tried to address in my writings; and I have sought to do so as humanely as possible. It afflicted my Father, after all. I make a point out of capitalizing the words “Father” and “Dad” out of respect for him personally, for the role he played in my life, and for the enormous personal success he achieved in life, surmounting so many challenges.

Few, very few people ever scale the heights my Father did.

Yet my Dad succumbed to a crippling illness over the course of many years.  At the outset, I reiterate that I had neither special expertise nor basic knowledge of this affliction or of elder-care issues in general. Truthfully, I learned the hard way by surviving a family business, albeit with my insanity intact.

My ‘normal’ was my Dad’s successful international company, the standard by which I judged the world and work environments around me.

Advertisements

THE FINEST ESCAPE, PART 2

I guess solutions to problems make themselves known in the strangest and the most unexpected of circumstances. Like flying mouses.

Take my Dad, for example (or Please!). He had made his greatest escape from his under-privileged origins as a Merchant Marine.  Sailor that he was, though, he was not able to elude the imprisonment of old age infirmities. In later life, as my prison warden, I, too, was obligated to escape. I had no choice in the matter but to throw the chair through the office window and climb out.

To put it simply, he was killing me!

Lebertech-Your-Killing-Me.jpg

The PANOPLY OF SWAGGER series charted both my Dad’s incremental decline and my concomitant exits from Olcott International.  In the initial installment, I recounted how Dad started neglecting his beautiful business in the slightest of ways. By shorting one of his top salesmen of his commission. Maybe it was a one-off? Ultimately, it wasn’t. The same thing happened with others, like Bob Gerhardt, in the harshest of ways.

In the second, I regaled my readers with the beginnings of a horned parade of spurious investment ideas beating a path to my Dad’s doorstep. It all started innocuously enough. A table game with Huntington Hartford. Oil drilling in Kansas. But it didn’t stop there. It accelerated whereby Dad got churned for a million by a stockbroker. He had the good sense to sue for his money back. But when he prevailed in court, he turned around and reinvested with the very same advisor!

Tail chasing eats up valuable time.

In the third part, I tried in vain to get my Dad’s eye back on the eight ball.  Instead, I was reduced to pleading in his kangaroo court, where the appellate judge was either the cleaning lady or my drug-addicted colleague. By hook or by crook, I did everything I could to draw his attention to where it should have been.

But it was no use.  Ever have days like that?

THE CALL (AKA FLYING MOUSE STORY)

So, when my cell phone lit up, with an unknown Caller ID number, I knew it had to be in response to my ad in The New York Times as tech talent available for contract work. “Your hands on the keyboard.”

Who was it?

Boutros Boutros Ghali (Secretary General of the United Nations at the time)? No, it wasn’t. No, it wasn’t.

Edward Olcott calling collect for Bernard Olcott? Not that time.

My Dad? He would call me every once in a while when he had need of me.

How about Harvey Burgermeister? You didn’t think of that name, did ya?

Harv was a pudgy postal worker in Queens, NY – and he will go down in history as my very first customer. In that first phone call, he explained that he wanted to buy a personal computer for his home. Would I be able to help him select the right PC and then train him to get him started with e-mail and internet? Of course, the answer was yes!

PANOPLY OF SWAGGER, PART 3

The third of the PANOPLY series.  Actually, it continues from my post “PAIR OF DEUCES, PART 4

So, I zeroed in for the kill. This was gonna be a drop kick in my local Kangaroo Court. There was no way I was gonna lose this case. My first victory. Imagine that!

“Dad, that’s a Drop-Down button,” I corrected him sternly. Precision was more than past due in our software efforts.

“Pop-Up button,” he countered.

“Drop-Down!” I said again, loudly and more stridently. I pointed to the button on the screen, next to the Prior Art field (see my post last week for a discussion of screen elements — if you’re really interested). “We need to be more precise about our language if we are going sell this product,” I added.  My turn to give the retribution: he was wrong and had it coming.

“James,” Dad shouted as he pushed back on his chair, standing, “again you show no common sense!”

‘What?!’ I asked myself. Is he going to try to humiliate me again, this time in front of Steve and Peggy? No way, I said to myself.

MESSAGES FROM THE UNIVERSE

Life goes on. Several months later, on May 18th, 1995, I was in my Ford Escort wagon with Peter Fennel, Chief Patent Counsel of Robinson Proprietary Limited, a new potential client based in Sydney, Australia. He was one of the many leads I had developed from the annual International Trade Mark Association (“INTA”) meeting held every Spring.

Robinson had a medium-sized portfolio of patents to renew in some 35 countries every year. We had sprung up a conversation during the INTA meeting a few weeks earlier and, as it turned out, he was actively looking for an outside service such as Olcott International to outsource his renewal hassles. A couple of e-mails back and forth made clear that he was soon be in New York; he asked “would my Dad and I be available for a meeting?”

Of course! I invited him across the Hudson River for a meeting and then lunch. Peter even brought us a copy of his patent inventory which allowed us to provide a precise quote for all Robinson renewals starting the next year, in 1996.

Dad was his usual uneven self, asking many questions that struck me as needless. Much time was spent on revising the quote simply because, as I surmised, I was the one who had prepared it (which meant it had to be suspect in his eyes). The changes provided zero value added, from our point of view as well as Peter’s.

PANOPLY OF SWAGGER, PART 3

Continued from last week’s post “PAIR OF DEUCES, PART 4

So, I zeroed in for the kill. This was gonna be a drop kick in my local Kangaroo Court. There was no way I was gonna lose this case. My first victory. Imagine that!

“Dad, that’s a Drop-Down button,” I corrected him sternly. Precision was more than past due in our software efforts.

“Pop-Up button,” he countered.

“Drop-Down!” I said again, loudly and more stridently. I pointed to the button on the screen, next to the Prior Art field (see my post last week for a discussion of screen elements — if you’re really interested). “We need to be more precise about our language if we are going sell this product,” I added.  My turn to give the retribution: he was wrong and had it coming.

“James,” Dad shouted as he pushed back on his chair, standing, “again you show no common sense!”

‘What?!’ I asked myself. Is he going to try to humiliate me again, this time in front of Steve and Peggy? No way, I said to myself.

PAIR OF DEUCES, PART 4

Nine months after the botched installations at Mark Chapman’s Trade Mark Office and Molecules R Us, Inc., it was a chilly late February morning in 1995. I was sitting at my desk on the second floor back at the Weehawken office. During this period, I was responsible for marketing with no, as in zero, authority to actually get much done.

Suddenly, I had developed a new-found interest in curing our software defects large and small.

Behind me, Steve was tapping away on his keyboard, probably writing code for the Olcott Intellectual Property Management Software (“OIPMS”). Peggy was around the corner, attending to some marketing follow-up. Yoshi was downstairs in the Computer Center, which was a large room featuring several PCs, a mini-computer, various computer parts like mother boards, dead mice, shells, and, bizarrely, in one corner, a portion of Palisades’ basalt protruding through the cement slab floor.

With no warning, Dad rolled into the room and announced, loudly, “Steven!” This was his way of saying that he wanted to meet and review OIMPS. Occasionally, this included major design changes. Which presented, at times, some very tough engineering challenges.

These review sessions were typically dreadful and sorry affairs. Frequently, they started by Dad walking in and offering “on-the-spot guidance” only to end by shouting insults to the computer department staff for errors mostly (but not always) provoked by him.