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.
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!
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?
Off the north shore of Nassau, capital city of the island nation of the Bahamas, sits an island formerly known as Hog Island. Up until 1959, it was a private estate belonging to a Swedish entrepreneur named Axel Wenner-Gren.
Axel. By http://www.ericssonhistory.com/templates/Ericsson/Article.aspx?id=2068&ArticleID=1336&CatID=366&epslanguage=SV, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4105629Axel’s may not be a recognizable name today, but in his time, he was one of the world’s wealthiest men. Born into humble means in 1881, he was one of six children, of which three had died in childhood. After spinning his wheels as a salesman of agricultural machinery in fin de siecle Germany, he wandered past a storefront in Vienna in 1908 to marvel at a new device called a “vacuum cleaner.”
The sucking machine obviously intrigued him. Clearly, in this case, he was thinking “outside of the box,” especially when you consider that his past business experiences was in the spice trade or the aforementioned farm equipment. When his attempts to become a distributor were rebuffed, somehow he managed to purchase a 20% stake in the company. A few years later, he made his coup when he persuaded Electrolux to buy the underlying patent in return for shares of the Swedish company’s stock.
That was the winning ticket!
Hopefully, neither one grabs the cash and runs!
This story is a continuation of THE TROUBLE WITH CHERRY.
Mike dropped the forged checks back into a folder. “We’ll confront Cherry later this morning,” he said to me softly, so no else could hear. “I’ll come get you.”
Shocked to learn of this episode of check forgery, I walked slowly back to my desk and tried to lose myself in the work of international renewals. As I wrote in my last story, I wasn’t sure why this discovery affected me so much. But it had. I could barely think of anything else. I pushed my papers around mindlessly and listlessly. Maybe I got off an order of renewals to Brazil or France when Mike popped his head downstairs, looked at me, and motioned with his head that it was showtime.
On the second floor, I joined Mike and my Dad. On the way over to Cherry’s office, Dad tapped Bob Gerhardt to join us. Seemed to me that Bob had been tipped off as well as to what was about to go down.
Most people think that working in a family business is a privileged position. I can’t blame them for thinking that. I have the impression myself that many are.
I wish that mine had truly been of that fortunate variety.
But it wasn’t. My Dad just wasn’t the kind of person that you would want to work with, ever.
It was not solely because he was a nitpicker of the nth degree. Or a micromanager who would agonizingly complete the job poorer than you. Generally, such kind of people are insufferable to work with and are to be avoided like the plague.
Sadly, it went beyond that.
Maybe it was all due to his childhood experience of being second-place to an over-bearing older brother. Or his troll of a father. A mother who was overwhelmed by trying to shelter that older brother from the fault-finding excesses of her Stalin-duped husband. Accordingly, one Sunday morning in 1943, she got up out of bed, had a cup of coffee, and expired, all by 11AM!
Could have been just a character flaw, plain and simple.
Today the Bernard Olcott story returns to Vilnius, May 1985. From my post “BOOMERANG THROWN,” you learned that I was in Lithuania for 5 days that year, hunting down my family roots. The first day was remarkable.
My second day in Lithuania featured an old fashioned get-on-the-bus touristic outing with my Intourist group. The destination was the town and castle at Trakai, about 30 km to the west of Vilnius. Built in the 15th century as the home to the Lithuanian Grand Duke, it was considered as the unofficial capital of Lithuania, which, as part of the united Polish-Lithuanian kingdom, stretched from the Baltic to the Black Seas in its prime. Today the ancient castle is in good condition – for a structure that is 600+ years old – and is scenically located on an island in a pristine clear water lake.
This blog ostensibly concerns my Father, Bernard, who passed away in 2006. But I take many diversions along the way. Today’s post is mostly about his 2nd wife, my Mom. She is a spry 83 year old woman who brags about her ability to walk around the parking lot in front of her Assisted Living Residence “23 times” every day. She is very specific about that number.
OK, so what do you do with your aging Mother when you bring her home for the weekend? In my case, I take her for long walks. Makes sense, right?
This past Sunday, I brought her and my cousin, Lise (visiting from Quebec City), for an excursion to the Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island. It’s a stunning modern memorial to, in my opinion, the greatest President of our Republic. Our very own Great Leader, the handicapped patrician who led our country through its darkest hour to supreme victory and ascendancy to superpower status, militarily, economically, and culturally. FDR. Now we have a Washington, DC-style monument in his honor, right here in the middle of the East River.