Category Archives: Dad

Mixed Emotions

We are coming up on 2 important anniversaries.  Tomorrow is the 1 year anniversary of my father’s death.  I think about him every day, and miss him more than words can say.  Fortunately, when I look back on my life, I have many special memories of our time together – riding in the car on road trips or just to his farm in Maryland, dancing to big band music at the officers’ club on a ech college gradnearby military base, moving me into my college dorm, the smile on his face when I graduated, and the hug he gave me the last time I saw him.  I am grateful for those.  They usually bring a smile to my face, albeit often with tears in my eyes at the same time.

I know I am lucky to have had him in my life for 48 years.  His life was a long, successful, happy one.  He worked hard, provided well for his family, and loved me unconditionally.  I know it is selfish to want him back, but I do.  Even with the Alzheimer’s robbing him of his memory and his intelligence, I miss his gentle smile and warm eyes.  But then I remember that several of my students over the past few years have lost fathers to cancer or heart attacks or other tragic causes, and I feel terrible for feeling so sad about my dad.  At least he got to see me grow up.  He got to know me as an adult.  And I got to know him too.  My loss isn’t easy, but it isn’t as tragic as these other men who were taken from their families, their daughters, too soon.

I know I will miss Dad every day, but I don’t want to go through the rest of my life as sad as I have been.  The problem is that I don’t know how to miss him without feeling sadness too.  I think I am afraid that if I let go of the sadness, it will feel like I don’t miss him enough.  I try to focus on the fact that he would not have wanted to go on in his condition at the end.  But it is still hard to let go and move forward.

Moving forward is what the 2nd anniversary is all about – processing inSunday will be my first wedding anniversary!  I have mixed emotions about that too. Don’t get me wrong – I am beyond thrilled to have married the love of my life!  It was a long time coming.  I am just sad that it didn’t happen years before, when my dad was still able to travel and could have been there to give me a hug and to welcome Jeanne into the family as my wife.

Recently, I have become obsessed fascinated with the idea of a medium being able to channel loved ones from the “other side”.  I am beginning to believe that the spirits of those who have passed remain with us, sort of like guardian angels, hovering over and keeping tabs on what we are doing.  The one positive thing I can hang on to about my dad passing away 3 days before our wedding is, as our Best Woman put it, that was the only way Dad could be at the wedding with us.  It isn’t quite the same thing as if he had been there in body, but I do hope that he was there in spirit – and was as happy for us as we were for ourselves.

We buried my father yesterday

We buried my father yesterday.  It was a long, difficult, emotionally draining day.  But there were amazing moments that will stay with me for a long time.  Because the funeral home in charge was in Delaware and the funeral was in DC, we didn’t have a visitation the night before.  Instead, the immediate family received the guests at the back of the church before the service began.

St. Peter's

St. Peter’s Catholic Church

I was amazed at how many people were there – old family friends from my childhood years, who I hadn’t seen in decades.  Family and friends from all over the country – my mom and I counted 20 states and the District of Columbia were represented, if you include my cousin’s husband who lives in Minnesota but works several weeks each month in Alaska, and flew in from there.  The full list is: Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington state, Texas, Alaska, and of course DC.  My Dad’s life touched many, many people and it meant so much to me that they wanted to be there to let us know how much he meant to them.

The priest gave a very nice homily, honoring Dad.  Then my brother and my cousin both gave eulogies.  I have to say, Terry, my brother, did an amazing job.  It was heartfelt, honest, humorous, and above all was a perfect tribute to my dad.  We laughed and we cried.  I only wish he was able to give me a copy so I could share it with you.  But he spoke from his heart, not his notes.  He didn’t have any of it written down.  And it never occurred to me to grab the iphone and record it – what I would give to have it to listen to when I want to remember his description of my dad.

After Terry was finished, my cousin, Shannon, who was one of Dad’s goddaughters, shared a few stories of times she remembered with Dad – also heartfelt and touching.  We then processed out to the Navy hymn, chosen by Mom to honor Dad’s Naval service.

From the church, we processed to Arlington National Cemetery, where Dad was interred with full military honors.  If you have never been to a military funeral, I am not sure I can describe it.  The solemnity with which they conduct the entire ceremony was incredibly moving.  First, we arrived at the administration building to make sure that everyone was there before we proceeded to the actual gravesite.  Once we were ready, everyone got in their cars and we drove to what was referred to as the staging area.

caisson

photo courtesy of my niece, Cassi

We stopped, got out of the cars, and watched as they moved the casket from the hearse to the horse-drawn caisson.  We then walked behind as he was taken another couple of blocks to where the grave was.  Marching in front of the caisson was the Navy Honor Guard flight – about 30 sailors in dress uniform with bayonetted guns on their shoulders – and a band that played as we walked, as well as at the graveside.

After the family was seated, the priest said a few prayers.  We then stood for the military honors. The Naval pallbearers removed the flag and held it tight over the casket.  While they stood there, a bagpiper played Amazing Grace, 7 men shot off 3 rounds each for the 21-gun salute, and then a trumpeter played Taps.  The pallbearers folded the flag, and it was presented to my mother. The Captain who handed it to her said, “On behalf of the President, the department of the Navy and our country, we want to thank your husband for his dedication and service.”  That flag will always be a reminder of Dad’s commitment to what he felt was his patriotic duty to serve in the Navy.

I have shed a lot of tears since that night in November when mom told me he was gone.  I imagine I will shed many more in the days and weeks ahead.  But I am glad that he is no longer trapped in a body that couldn’t walk and a mind that couldn’t remember.

view of AF mem

photo courtesy of my niece, Cassi

If I didn’t know it before, after talking to family and friends this week, I know that he loved me as much as I loved him.  I also know that he will always be with me – in my heart.  And I can always go visit him, at a lovely spot right between the Pentagon and the Air Force Memorial.  What an honor!

Peter and the Rock

I am currently participating in an Adult R.E. (Religious Education) class at my Unitarian Universalist church.  The minister is leading a course titled “Owning Your Religious Past” that is designed to address where we have come from in our spiritual journey.  She described it this way:

“Few UU’s are born into the faith, and when we find our way here, it can be with significant baggage from past church experiences. This class will help us sort through what was, what is, and what can be in our experience of religious community, its tools of self-exploration and sharing, finally enabling us to realize a faith that is powerful, nurturing, and relational.”

Last Sunday, the 2nd in the 5 week curriculum, we spent some time with our eyes closed, remembering a church from our past that had a big influence on us, either positively or negatively, mentally walking through the entire building, recalling sights, sounds, and smells.  We then spent a few minutes drawing a floor plan of it and sharing with the other members of the class what we remembered.

My memory was of the Catholic church of my childhood.  I remembered walking up the large flight of marble steps, through the heavy wooden doors, and into the sanctuary with my family.  We were usually late, rushing in as the first hymn, or even the first reading, was already underway.  We sat in the same general area each week – near the back, on the left side of the center aisle.  I still do that at my new church – although now I move to the right, near the side aisle, and am a bit closer to the front.

I think we are all creatures of habit and tend to gravitate to our “comfort zone”.  I remember often asking my dad why we had to sit so far back.  Looking back, it was probably because we were late, and he didn’t want to make a bigger scene than necessary.  He was never one to draw attention to himself.  But his usual answer at the time was to suggest that I look at all the candles on the altar and then tell me that if the place caught on fire, he wanted to be as close to the door as possible!

One of the sights I remember from many Sundays sitting in the pews was the Bible verse painted around the clerestory, just below the upper level windows. In letters edged with gold, it read

TU ES PETRUS, ET SUPER HANC PETRAM AEDIFICABO ECCLESIAM MEAM

For those as lacking in biblical knowledge as I am, that verse is from Matthew 16:18.  As you can see, it was in Latin, which I never took, and it wasn’t until I was in French class in high school that I deciphered what it meant.  In French,  the name Peter translates as Pierre, while the word for rock is pierre.  Yes, the same word.  Sometime after I learned that, I was sitting in church one Sunday, looking at the words high above my head (probably trying to keep from falling asleep during the sermon), and realized that Petrus/Petram looked a lot like Peter. Aedificabo looked like “edifice”, which had to do with buildings, and all of a sudden I put it together.  I was sitting in St. Peter’s Church!  And there was a Bible verse I vaguely remembered hearing at some point in my Catholic school education about “You are Peter, and on this Rock, I build my church.”

It all began to make sense.  At least, the choice of Bible verses made sense.  (I mean, it was St. Peter’s Church!) I never did make sense of the dogma that was preached.  Which is why I no longer consider myself a Catholic.

I have been thinking about my childhood church a lot lately.  Taking part in this exploration of our religious past is bringing up lots of memories, but I also have realized this week that St. Peter’s is still a part of my present.  7 weeks from today*, I will be back in St. Peter’s Church.  This time, though, I will be sitting in the front row, listening to my brother eulogize my father, and missing my rock.  I just hope the church doesn’t catch fire!

 

*For those who don’t know, we have had to wait for my father’s funeral until we were given a burial date by Arlington National Cemetery.

Christmas is harder than I thought it would be

It’s Christmas Eve, and I just got home from the “Wonder of Winter Lights” pageant at my church.  My partner is out tending to other people’s animals – she works as a pet-sitter, so holidays are her busy time.  The house is clean in anticipation of company tomorrow – friends who are also far from family, are too busy to travel, and/or aren’t Christian so don’t have a reason to be with family on a random Tuesday.  My dogs and cats are sacked out, so the house is quiet.

When I first get home, whether from work, shopping, or – as tonight – church, I almost always open the computer and check out what’s been posted on Facebook since I last logged on.  I check my notifications, read my private messages, and look to see if there are any new likes on the page I help administrate.

profile pics

This is just some of the many I have posted to Facebook.

Tonight, for some reason, I scrolled through my old profile pictures – I tend to change my image pretty regularly.  I went back almost 2 years.  Some of them are of me and Jeanne.  Some of them are just me.  Some of them indicate causes (or teams) I support, or show our pets.  And some of them are of Dad.  There are a couple of me with Dad.  Those are the ones that are making me sad tonight.

I didn’t expect to have a hard time today – I got through Thanksgiving without much problem.  As I posted after he died, I had lost him several times over the past few years.  He really hadn’t been with us for Christmas – mentally – for several years.  So this shouldn’t be all that different.  At least, that is what I told myself.

me & dad at bowlingBut something about seeing this picture, taken almost 3 years ago, brought tears to my eyes.  It was taken at the bowling alley where Jeanne and I were on a league.  Dad was visiting for a week or so while mom was on a trip.  This was the year that DC got hit with back-to-back snow storms that delayed my flight up there to bring him home with me.  I was so relieved to have him with me at that point that I wanted to keep him close, even when we went bowling.  He was so cute that night – cheering for everyone on my team, giving us a thumbs up when we did well and a thumbs down when we didn’t.

I have so many happy memories of our times together – I am trying to just think of those and remember the love.  The sadness kicks in when I start thinking about how we won’t have any more chances to make special memories.

Even after the dementia got bad, up until the very end, he would smile every time he saw me – tonight, I am missing his smile.

Dad will be in my heart forever

For the last 3 years, I have known my dad was dying.  He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which we all know is incurable and ultimately terminal.  But I had hopes that he would be around for a long time – there are stories of people living with Alzheimer’s for 10+ years.  The thing is, he probably had it for much longer and we never knew.  Or maybe we knew, but didn’t want to face it.

For a long time leading up to the diagnosis, we knew something was wrong.  He would repeat questions or forget appointments or get into fender benders that he should have been able to avoid.  He would get angry for no apparent reason – he was basically a kind, gentle man, so that was very out of character for him.  At first, I chalked it up to his work-a-holic tendencies that left him out of sorts after retirement.  He didn’t have any hobbies, so he didn’t know what to do with himself when he wasn’t working a full-time job.  But then it became clear that it was more than that.

We originally referred to it as “dementia” – which covers a whole host of disorders and can be caused by a wide variety of problems, ranging from vitamin deficiency to strokes to the dreaded Alzheimer’s.  I think the hope was that he would get better.  But he just kept getting worse.  And then the doctor said what we had all been doing our best to deny.

Mom did her best to manage with him at home, but with my brother and me each about 800-900 miles away, she had a hard time being the sole care-giver.  About 6 months after the official diagnosis, the family decided that it would be best if Dad moved into assisted living.  That was almost exactly 2 years ago.  He moved in on November 1st, 2010.  On November 4th, he fell and broke his hip. Surgery was necessary, but as we had heard, the anesthesia accelerated the dementia, and he never really got back on his feet.

His first assisted living arrangement was near me.  This eased the responsibility on Mom, but she had to travel by plane to see him – something she did about once a month for a year.  I enjoyed being able to see him frequently, though.  I would often stop by on my way home from work, sometimes just to say hi and check on him, others to actually have dinner with him and visit for a while.

At the end of that first year, she decided that she wanted him back closer to her – a decision that was very hard for me to accept, but ultimately was the right one, since his new residence was in a facility that could better care for him as his medical needs grew.  He was there about 4 months when they moved him from the assisted living memory unit to the skilled nursing floor.

I was able to visit him 4 times during the past year.  The first visit was in January – about 2 months after he moved back East.  I was discouraged for the first two days because he didn’t seem to know me, but the last day I was there, he knew exactly who I was – he even introduced me to a staff member by name and as his daughter.  The next time I saw him was in May.  I only had a couple of hours with him – I was on my way to my 30th high school reunion.  Fortunately, he was having a pretty good day that day as well.

In August of this past summer, I was able to go again – this time for several days.  He still lit up when he saw me, recognizing me as someone he knew and loved, but was confused about which family member I was.  I spent time with him during the day, and even took him to the main dining room for a couple of meals.  It was hard to see the decline, but I was glad to have some time to just be with him.

Last month, Mom was scheduled for surgery – she arranged to have it at the hospital closest to Dad and to do her rehab in the same nursing unit.  I took the week off work to be with her – something I am now incredibly glad I did.

I noticed the decline in Dad almost right away.  He was much less able to communicate – rarely talking, mumbling when he did, and dozing off frequently (if he was awake at all).  I arrived on a Saturday and stayed until Friday, seeing Dad each day except Monday, when I was at the hospital with Mom all day.  Most of the time I spent with him was in silence – he was either sleeping or unable to respond to anything I said.  Occasionally I would get a nod or even a slurred yes or no, but that was about it.

At the end of the week, I had to return home – I had a job waiting, and my mother was being cared for by the nursing staff.  My brother’s wife was due to arrive 4 days later to help out when Mom was discharged.  I had plans to fly back for Thanksgiving – which was only 4 weeks away.  When it was time to go, I stopped by Dad’s room to say goodbye, but he was sleeping.  I told him I loved him, that I would be back and to do whatever the nurses told him.

That night, the nursing staff decided he needed to go to the hospital because he was severely dehydrated and needed IV fluids.  He hadn’t eaten much all week, and had had even less to drink.  They kept him overnight, and may have kept him longer to administer more fluid, but Hurricane Sandy was due to hit within a couple of days and Mom was concerned he would get stuck at the hospital.  He was there alone, because she was less than a week out of surgery and couldn’t go with him, so she arranged to get him discharged and brought back to his room.  But we all knew that his condition was of grave concern.  So my brother decided to go out with his wife, and together they decided to fly out a couple of days early to beat the storm.

They got there Sunday, the storm hit Monday, and by Tuesday it was clear that Dad’s time was running out.  He rallied a bit that afternoon, but was unresponsive again the next day. On that Thursday, my brother texted me in the afternoon that Dad was close to passing.  His breathing was very shallow and slow, although his pulse remained strong. The doctor put him on morphine that evening, since he seemed to be in some distress.

Several days went by with little change – on Sunday, my brother and I both commented that we were surprised he was hanging on.  We knew it was just a matter of time, though.  Between him, his wife, and my mother, Dad had someone sitting with him almost all day.  From what they have told me, Dad seemed peaceful – the morphine helped him rest comfortably, so that eased my mind.  On Monday, my brother stayed with him almost all day long – he had to leave the next day, and was hopeful that Dad would pass before he had to leave.  But in his stubborn way, Dad hung on almost 2 more days.

They left the morning of Tuesday, November 6th and Dad passed Wednesday evening.  I know my brother has some guilt over that – he probably has that refrain running through his head. “If only…”  But as his wife has said, Dad was probably waiting for him to leave – he always liked to do things in his own way.  I am just disappointed that I didn’t realize how close the end was when I was there – if only…

The night that Mom called to say dad was gone was one of the worst of my life.  Even though I knew that day would come, and over the 10 days leading up to it, I had been expecting it any day, it still felt like a blow to the gut.  My dad – my hero – was gone.  Really gone.  Not just locked away in his deteriorating mind, but gone from this earth.

I have lost my dad again.  I lost him the day he was diagnosed.  I lost him the day he fell and had to have surgery.  I lost him the day he moved to Delaware.  And I lost him on November 7th at 10:30 at night.  I guess the thing I can hold on to now is that I will never lose him again – he will remain in my heart forever.

 

Stop the world, I want to get off!

Do you ever have those days where you want to hit the pause button on life?  You would like the whole world to just stop spinning for a day, an hour, a minute – just long enough for you to catch your break from the carnival ride you feel your life is on.  These past couple of weeks have felt like a Tilt-a-Whirl – rushing by, filled with endless to-do lists that just keep growing, even as I check items off.

I’ve been teaching, coaching, working part-time at my church, organizing our booth at the Pride Festival again, helping to plan the new minister’s installation ceremony, writing lesson plans for 4 days of a substitute… I’ve been out of town for the past 6 days, which includes 4 class days, because my mother had knee replacement surgery.   So I was with her instead of with my students.  It was the right thing to do, but any teacher knows it is more work to be gone from school than it is to be there.

Oh, yeah – I’m also planning my wedding.  In November.  In Iowa. For the few readers I have who don’t know, since my last post, my partner and I have decided (after almost 19 years) that we actually do want to get married, even though our state and the Federal government don’t recognize it.  The Federal government is getting closer, though. A couple of weeks ago, DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) was declared unconstitutional by a court of appeals, so we are hopeful!

In fact, between that and the fact that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was struck down, we figure it is only a matter of time before we start being eligible for federal protections and privileges.  That is actually one of the factors in our decision to drive to Iowa next month and get married in a state where it is legal.  When the day arrives that the government will treat us the same as any other married couple, we wanted to have the document saying we are in fact married.

I will write more about our decision and our plans in a future post.  But right now, I just want the world to stop and let me off for a while.  I want to stop time – freeze everything and everyone – while I take a little time for myself.  Time to think, time to get caught up on all those things that fall to the bottom of the priority list, time to process my emotions.  They are kind of all over the place right now.

Of course, I am excited about the wedding.  I am happy that Mom’s surgery went well.  I am grateful for my school and the administration that allows me to be with my family when they need me, while having a qualified, former math teacher cover my classes so they don’t get behind.  But I am also scared.  Really scared.

This past week, I was not only visiting Mom and helping her through surgery and moving to rehab.  I was also visiting Dad.  Her surgery was at a hospital about a mile from where Dad is, and she arranged to do her rehab in the same nursing wing of the retirement community where he lives now.  I hadn’t seen Dad since August, and I was a little surprised to realize there has been such a significant decline.  I knew that he would only get worse with time, but it still took me by surprise.

January 2012 – he introduced me to the person who took this photo as his daughter!

When I was there in January, he knew me by name.  When I saw him in August, he called me by his sister’s name, but still lit up when he saw me, recognizing me as someone familiar.  This time, for the short periods when he was actually awake, he didn’t seem to know me at all.  He did put his arm around me and hug me one day, but that afternoon, he was sleeping so soundly in his room that I couldn’t get him to respond to me at all.

The nursing staff tells me that, more and more, he is like that – he sleeps most of the day, and is pretty unresponsive most of the time.  He has lost a great deal of weight, and seems to be slipping away every moment.

I have plans to go back over my Thanksgiving break, but my real fear is that I will need to go back before that.  I know that he would not want to linger – he would hate it if he was aware of his condition.  I know that the man I knew as my father has been gone for a long time.  So I should be OK with whatever happens.  But my inner child, Daddy’s little girl, wants to scream NOOOOOO!  It isn’t fair!  I’m not ready to let him go!

In the meantime, I have to get back to work, teaching, coaching, working at church.  I have a wedding to plan.  I have a life to live.   And he would want me to live it.

Where did the summer go?

This summer has been a busy one.  I took on a part time job at my church, filling in as the office admin when they had an unexpected opening.  Originally, I was just helping out until they found a replacement, but I am going to continue doing part of the job – writing the newsletter, preparing the weekly order of service and announcement bulletin, and monitoring email and voice mail – for a while.  I won’t be able to spend any time in the office, as I did this summer, because of course, I have a full-time job teaching.  In fact, I go back to work this coming week.  We start early here in the South!  But a fellow church member and I have worked out a way to share the responsibilities of the admin position, so it should all work out pretty well.

I did manage to get out of town a couple of times this summer.  For the first time in over 18 years, Jeanne and I went away for more than a weekend without seeing family members.  We usually work our trips around visiting my brother or her sisters, or they involve traveling to a neutral location WITH family members.  This time, we took a road trip that wasn’t to Wisconsin!  We saw some friends for a couple of days and then moved on to explore a new city.  We stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast, visited several museums and other tourist attractions, and ate in recommended restaurants.  We were gone a total of 5 nights, but it felt longer.

5 days after getting home, I was re-packed and on my way to the airport for a trip to the east coast to visit my Dad.  I flew into a small regional airport, rented a car, and drove the hour and a half to where he is being cared for.  When we moved him there in November, he was in the secure unit for Alzheimer and dementia patients.  In March, he was moved into the Skilled Nursing unit, where he now lives.  I was able to see him for 4 days, most of which were good days, when he knew me by name.  It doesn’t hurt as much as it used to when he thinks I am someone else – usually one of his sisters, Pat.  The part that hurts is when I have to say goodbye, not knowing when I will get the chance to see him again.

It would take me at least 16-18 hours to drive from my house to Delaware, and the cost of flying just keeps going up, which makes it difficult to travel that way often.  Even flying involves changing planes and the better part of a day each way, so it’s hard to find enough time during the school year.

I definitely noticed a decline in his ability to understand his surroundings as well as to communicate.  But he still looks at the paper – I am not sure he understands what he is reading, though.  One day, he had a folded paper napkin in his pocket.  He took it out, unfolded it, and held it in two hands like a newspaper, turning it over and over like he was turning the pages of the Post.  I guess some habits will stick with him until the end!

For now, he also still smiles at me, letting me know, even if he can’t come up with my name, that I am a familiar face.  One of the activities directors even commented on the fact that he seems happier when I am there.  I certainly was happy to see him!  I even got to watch him “bowl” one day – they set up plastic pins and angle the wheelchairs so that the residents have a half-way decent chance of hitting them with the plastic ball.  Dad seemed to enjoy himself and even clapped for the other residents when they took their turns.

As my school year gets underway and I get busy with the daily tasks of teaching and coaching, I will treasure the memories I made this summer, and look forward to finding time to get back to Delaware.  I would love to see Dad “bowling” again!

While I spent time with Dad each day, I also found time to connect with some friends who were in the area.  I spent about an hour visiting a friend from high school who was vacationing with her family, and had 2 meals with friends from college who arranged to visit their vacation home that weekend, knowing I would be in town.  It was great to catch up with them!  I also made time to attend a Zumba class at a local Curves – I was going to miss both of my weekly classes, so it was good to work in some physical activity.

The last 2 weeks of my summer break from school were mostly spent out of town, which had the drawback of making the summer seem even shorter, but I wouldn’t have missed either trip.  Now to buckle down and get some planning done before the students return on Monday!  I also plan to get back to doing a better job of tracking my food and making progress with Weight Watchers.  The summer has been full of ups and downs in that part of my life and I really want to get back on track.

I had set a goal at the beginning of the summer, and have fallen a little short.  I am not going to beat myself up over that, or sabotage my efforts by giving up, though.  I am going to set a new goal, and do everything I can to reach it.  My next birthday is in about 6 weeks, so my updated goal is to lose 12 pounds by then.  I’ll keep you posted!

I know people mean well…

I know people mean well.  I am sure they want to let me know they care.  But I almost wish they wouldn’t ask how Dad is doing.  I hate not knowing how things are going on a day-to-day basis, and when they ask, it reminds me that I don’t have him close to me anymore.

Since he moved to Delaware 5 months ago, I have seen him only once and spoken to him just a handful of times.  Each time Mom calls me when she is visiting him, she tells him who is on the phone and gives it to him.  He seems to know who I am, but really has a hard time hearing me.  Often, I can’t understand him either.  It was so much easier to have conversations – as nonsensical as they were – when we were in the same place.   So my understanding of how he is doing is pretty much limited to what mom tells me.

About a month ago, Mom told me that Dad was having some issues with pressure sores, and that the residence where he was had to transfer him to the skilled nursing unit there.  The hope was that it was just temporary – until they could treat the sores – but the staff has since determined that he really needs more care than the memory unit could provide, so he has now officially moved into the nursing home part of Cadbury.

From what I understand, the sores are all healed, and he seems to be unperturbed by the move.  It still makes me sad that the disease has progressed to this point, though.  I also get angry at times – wanting to grab hold of him and find a time machine to take us back to a better time.

In a couple of weeks, I am flying to the East Coast for my high school reunion, and will be able to see Dad for a few hours the day I arrive.  I wish I had the time to spend a few days with him.  It is always a gamble as to whether he will be having a good day or a bad one, especially since I will be arriving in the afternoon and he tends to be better in the mornings.  Once school is out, I hope to get back up there (maybe in June) when I can be there for longer.

In the meantime, I thank people for asking about him, let them know he is doing OK, and that I will know more after I get to see him in person.  I hold on to the memories I have, knowing that I was lucky to have him as a dad.  And I let myself grieve, knowing that I am, slowly, losing the most important man in my life.

My visit with Dad

I spent much of the MLK, Jr weekend in Delaware, visiting Dad.  Cadbury is a lovely facility, and the staff seem very caring and capable.

I arrived mid-day on Saturday and stayed through lunch on Monday.  The first 2 days were tough on me – he didn’t seem to know who I was.  He seemed comfortable with me, and a couple of times called me Pat, his sister’s name, so at least I was a familiar face.  It just broke my heart a little that he didn’t recognize me or light up when I would walk in the room.  He was also very tired both days, dozing off frequently, so we had very little active interaction.  I took him out to the main dining room for dinner Saturday and brunch on Sunday, but it was difficult to keep him alert.

By Sunday afternoon, I was convinced that seeing him this way was too hard, and I wasn’t sure I could handle visiting again.  I even spent some time on my own Sunday afternoon and evening, shopping and taking myself out to dinner.

Fortunately, Monday was better!  He knew I was his daughter, called me by name several times, and was awake and engaged the whole morning.  Unfortunately, that made it very difficult to leave.  But I had a plane to catch, so I left promising him I would come back as soon as I could.

Although I can’t visit as often as I did when he was in Memphis, I will try to get there as often as I can afford to (airfare isn’t cheap!) and will cherish the time we do spend together.  Even if he does sleep through it.

A break in the dry spell

I know it has been a while since I have updated this blog.  From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, the days flew by, and before I knew it, the year had rolled over to 2012.  It has been almost 2 months since I have seen Dad, and I miss him a lot.  I have spoken to him a few times – it is really hard for him to hear me on a cell phone, and sometimes it is even hard for me to understand him, especially when Mom calls my cell from her cell.  Really makes the commercial “Can you hear me now?” have a whole new meaning.

The first week Dad was in Delaware, Mom was with him every day.  She has also been to see him just about every week since then, for at least a day or two.  She was there Christmas morning, as well as on his birthday 5 days later.  It isn’t quite the same as being able to stop by every day or so after work, but when she is there, it is for longer visits than I was able to provide.  She tells me that he is doing well – that physical therapy is helping him stand and walk with a walker a bit more – and that he seems to be comfortable with the staff and other residents.  Despite her reassurances, I don’t know exactly how he is.

This weekend, I will find out for myself!  I am flying up Saturday and spending 2 nights there.  The residence has a guest suite that can be reserved, so I will be right on site.  It will be just me & Dad, since Mom is leaving this weekend for a trip with a friend.  I am very excited to see him, see how he is doing, and get a sense of how this place compares to where he was before.  (I was only there overnight when we moved him in November.)

The next few weeks will be busy, but towards the end of January, life will slow down a bit.  I will try to be better about blogging in the coming months, but in the meantime, thanks to all who are following my journey.