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!