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and they drive three hours east(5)

Time:2017-10-12 23:23Shoes websites Click:

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Anna nudges him out the door. But then his memory circle restarts. Why leave? He refuses to get in the car. Family members buckle their seat belts, hoping the air of inevitability convinces him. But now he has to use the bathroom. Then his memory loop kicks in again, and he makes his old argument with the conviction of it being new. The family is exhausted. One of the most painful aspects of dementia is that it not only robs Y.A. of memory and identity, it robs him, as Dianne says, "of the capacity for joy."

Five minutes later, Y.A. relents. The restaurant is a shack of Americana, with a stuffed alligator and old signs offering baths for 25 cents, exactly the type of place that could stir some memories. The family orders steaks and beers. Y.A. orders catfish and a glass of milk and barely utters a word all night.

IT'S FRIDAY. Party time. Dianne is stressed, hustling to prepare. Y.A. is stressed too, aware that something he cares about deeply is out of his control. "Dianne," he says, "did you make a guest list?"


"What kind of party doesn't have a guest list?"

The truth is that she didn't want to. She still doesn't know who's coming. But one of Y.A.'s oldest friends, a 90-year-old woman named Peggy, helped spread the word. And at 5 p.m., on a sunny and warm evening, guests arrive in droves -- mostly neighbors and friends of the family. Y.A., dressed sharp in a navy blazer, greets everyone at the kitchen table. It's hard to tell if he remembers any faces, if not names. The party swells to 50 or so people. Dianne leaves her dad's side to catch up with old friends, reliving memories of her own.

A white-haired man approaches Y.A. and says, "I know every game you ever played, what you did and who you played with."

"Oh yeah?" Y.A. says.

He hands Y.A. a copy of the Marshall News Messenger from Sept. 30, 1943. Y.A. opens the fragile paper and scans the Mavericks roster until he sees Yelberton Abraham Tittle. He shakes his head.

"I've got the worst name in the world," he says.

The party moves to the porch, and Y.A. sits in front of a guitar trio, tapping his feet. Every few minutes he repeats a thought as though it has just occurred to him. He requests "On the Road Again" over and over, and the band acquiesces most of the time. Between songs, his friends tell some of their favorite Y.A. stories. About how he used to fake injuries to keep from losing at tennis. How he was benched once because he refused to cede playcalling authority to the head coach. How he once persuaded a referee to eject his coach rather than throw a flag. Y.A. occasionally laughs but mostly stares at the lake.

Midnight nears. People leave one by one, kissing Y.A.'s head and saying, "God bless you." He gives a thumbs-up for the cameras, and he autographs the only photo people brought -- the blood picture, of course -- by signing his name neatly on the white of his shoulder: Y.A. Tittle HOF '71. A palpable finality lingers, as if everyone knows this might be the last time they see him.

The musicians move inside to the living room. Y.A. gives his all to hobble closer to them, one foot barely shuffling in front of the other. He sits on the couch, coughing. It is past his bedtime. Only six or so people remain. Y.A. holds his watered-down vodka but doesn't drink, humming along to country songs.

Then someone plays the opening chords to "Amazing Grace."

"Oh god," Y.A. says.

His face reddens, like dye touching water. His eyes turn pink and wet. His breathing becomes deep and heavy. He brings his left fist to his eye, then puts down his drink, and soon both hands are pressed against his face. Memories are boiling up. Only he knows what, and soon they will be gone. The only thing that's clear is that Y.A. Tittle is finally whole. He opens his mouth but can't speak. He stares at the ground, his face glossy and damp, and begins to mouth the words, I once was lost but now am found.

SOMETHING FEELS DIFFERENT the next morning. Y.A. sits in a recliner with a blanket warming his legs, holding a coffee. Sun lights the room. Dianne and Anna lean on the counter; Don and Steve, Dianne's husband, sit on the couch. All are tired, their voices scratchy. But they're huddled in a sort of wonder. Y.A. is telling stories that have been told before but seem sweeter now.

"Tell the snake story, Dad," Dianne says.

"We saw a big snake," Y.A. begins. "This was 10, 15 years ago. Right out there. We were scared to death. I tell everyone to get back.

I get a hoe. I sneak up behind it and hit it and hit it and hit it and hit it. I was protecting my family. Finally, it flipped over. I looked and it read, 'Made in Japan.'" ? Everyone laughs. Y.A. is on a roll. He is trying hard -- too hard -- to convince everyone that as a single man he rarely exploited his fame for any backseat pleasures. "I would sometimes get a kiss," he says. Just then, Anna brings a plate filled with Y.A.'s medicine, tethering him to his current reality. "Anna!" Y.A. says. "I'm telling a bunch of lies over here and getting away with it -- until you brought these pills."

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