THE JOURNEY HOME: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2013

February 25, 2013 in Random Thoughts

4:30am (at my dad’s home)            Wake up, throw my unruly hair under the control of a baseball cap, and drive my sister to the airport in my pajamas.

5:00am            Climb back into my bed on the living room couch. This was my bed when I was able to be here in the last month, spending night duty with my dad to give my sister  a break. Now that he’s gone, I can’t imagine sleeping anywhere else. I look over to where the hospice bed used to be, to where my dad used to be, and I think…

5:20am             Pretend I’m going to fall asleep again.

5:40am             Keep pretending I’m going to fall asleep again.

7:00am             Am amazed I did fall asleep! Still tired, though. Decide to lounge on couch for a bit more.

7:33am             Get up, get dressed in workout clothes, clean the bathroom, and throw the sheets in the washer.

8:06am             Go for one last run on my dad’s favorite trails.

9:10am              Empty the dishwasher, clean up the kitchen, throw out the trash, clean up my dad’s office, his bedroom, and the living room, all to get ready to list his house on the market tomorrow.

10:25am            Answer and compose emails while eating a healthy breakfast of yogurt and fruit.

10:45am             Follow healthy breakfast with my dad’s last bit of caramel popcorn because it reminds me of him. (Or because I’m a stress eater.)

11:05am            Regret eating caramel popcorn for breakfast.

11:10am            Shower, get dressed, pack.

11:35am            Cancel life insurance policy while folding towels and sheets. (And by “cancel”, I mean begin the long series of steps my sister and I will have to go through before the company will even start thinking about canceling.)

11:50am            Cancel retirement policy while doing my breakfast dishes by hand.

12:07pm            Cancel health insurance while dusting the living room furniture.

12:18pm            Discover you can become quite numb to saying the words “I need to report a death.”

12:20pm            Cancel vision insurance while slumped over the kitchen table with a crick in my neck from holding the cell phone to my ear so I could multi-task.

12:30pm            Check in with my cousin to coordinate care of the lawn and a run to the dump. Discover that my cousin is rock solid.

12:45pm            Run out to Panera’s for a healthy salad to offset my caramel popcorn binge.

1:20pm             Eat a handful of frosted animal cookies to offset my healthy lunch.

1:30pm             Fold final load of laundry, finish packing, finish last minute tidying up.

2:30pm            Leave to pick up my dad’s ashes and death certificates.

3:00pm            Pick up ashes and carry them to the car with great composure.

3:03pm            Cry.

3:07pm            Get a hold of myself: there’s to time to cry if I’m going to make my flight.

3:24pm            Drop off one death certificate at the lawyer’s office.

3:35-5:09pm     Work with the bank to try to get my dad’s account transferred to my sister and I so we can take over paying his bills. Still a work in progress.

5:15pm            Back at my dad’s house. Pull my insane amount of luggage, including my grandfather’s guitar packed in a case with no handle, into the foyer to await shuttle to airport.

5:24pm            Eat 2 leftover bananas for dinner just so I don’t have to throw them away.

5:30pm            Touch base with my aunt about mail and other matters. Will miss her.

5:45pm            Shuttle arrives.

6:10pm            Exceptionally nice driver takes pity on me and helps carry my luggage to the ticket counter. Thank him profusely.

6:30pm            My personal belongings go through security.

SECURITY GUARD: Is this your bag?

ME: Yes.

SECURITY GUARD: I’m going to have to run this through again.

ME: (stricken) Those are my dad’s ashes.

SECURITY GUARD: (pause) Yes, ma’am.

In the split second I bend over to put on my shoes, the nice security guard tries to return my dad’s ashes to someone else. Chase him and the ashes down in an unexpected role reversal.

6:45pm             Slump over in a chair at the gate with a mind so fried I can only focus on reading an US Weekly.

7:45-9:45pm            On plane in a middle seat with an extremely noisy small child  behind me making raspberries and singing loudly, and with an even louder mom telling him to be quiet. Insert headphones as soon as humanly possible. Severe turbulence and bumpy landing do nothing to relax me.

10:15pm            Locate my hired driver in massive airport traffic jam.

11:00pm            Arrive home. Throw piece of toast and handful of chocolate chip cookies in my mouth.

11:10pm            Peek in on my 3 peacefully sleeping children: aaahhh, home sweet home!

11:15pm            Place my dad’s ashes on my bedroom table, slide into bed, and I think…

 

 

VALENTINE’S DAY

February 22, 2013 in Random Thoughts

Valentine’s Day has always been a mixed bag for me.

On the one hand, it’s a holiday primarily involving candy, so what’s not to love? As a child, I delighted in passing out valentines to my classmates, sucking on cherry-flavored heart-shaped lollipops, and eating the little conversation hearts with sweet messages like “Be Mine.” (Today’s conversation hearts that say things like “Text Me” are just not the same.)

My parents would give my sister and I small heart shaped boxes of chocolates. I remember feeling like a grownup when I’d get mine: a box full of decadent chocolates just for me? Wow!

When I got older, I realized that Valentine’s Day was not just about candy. There was some kind of love component involved. I’d watch alone while my friends with boyfriends received flowers, candy, and cuddly teddy bears and I’d think “Wow! When you don’t have a boyfriend, this holiday kind of…sucks.” (Although there was still plenty of candy at my disposal to drown my sorrows in.)

From now on, though, Valentine’s Day is going to carry an entirely different meaning for me: it will be a day of remembrance.

My dad passed away on Valentine’s Day, just a week ago.

I already know how I’m going to celebrate Valentine’s Day going forward. For breakfast, we’ll have grapefruit juice and cinnamon rolls, in memory of my dad’s favorite juice and one of the last foods he could still keep down and enjoy towards the end.

Sometime during the day I’ll drink a Diet Coke, to which my dad had a minor addiction. I won’t even have to go to the store to get one, for we still have a pantry full of his secret stash from the last time he came to visit.

For dessert, mint chocolate ice cream will be served. Every time he’d visit, my dad take a jaunt down to our local grocery store to stock up my freezer with mint chocolate ice cream because he knew it was my favorite…and he liked it too.

And of course I will spend the day remembering my dad: reliving favorite memories, remembering the last time I saw him, the last words we said to each other, the last thing I said that made him laugh…

Valentine’s Day will always be about love and candy, and from now on, it will always be about my dad.

 

COLIN FISCHER & WONDER: TWO BOOK REVIEWS

February 15, 2013 in Book Reviews

Every year for Christmas, I make sure that there is the gift of books for each of my sons waiting beneath the tree. I do my research, scouring Amazon.com for new releases, best sellers, and recently released sequels to books they’ve already enjoyed. For my two younger sons, it’s an exercise in finding interesting choices in their reading level, but for my oldest, it’s almost like shopping for myself.

There are some great books out there for his age, and I’ve just read two fantastic ones that he let me borrow when he was done.

Colin Fischer

Colin Fischer, by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz, is told from the point of view of a 14-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome. He is amazingly bright, especially when it comes to math, but he has some significant deficiencies in the social arena.

He does not like to be touched, so even though he uses physics to turn himself into a hell of a basketball shot, he can’t actually play the game. During one attempt to play, he was fouled. Colin reacted by throwing himself on the offending player and trying to choke him to death: a flight-or-flight reaction to the danger of being touched.

Colin also can’t read facial expressions. He has a series of index cards that he uses as cheat sheets to identify the emotions that flit across people’s faces. He doesn’t understand sarcasm or metaphors either, making casual conversation rather challenging.

One day during a typical high school lunch where Colin sits by himself making sure his foods don’t touch one another, a gun accidentally goes off. The chief suspect? Wayne Connelly, the school bully that just gave Colin a toilet bowl swirly. But the fact that Wayne is the school bully is irrelevant to Colin. He knows Wayne is innocent, so he sets out to prove it, becoming a detective along the lines of Sherlock Holmes.

Colin Fischer reminded me a lot of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. They are both fascinating glimpses into how the mind of a person with Asperger’s syndrome or autism works. Both Colin and Christopher are mathematical geniuses and are stymied by the fact that social graces cannot be mathematically computed. Both are involved in solving a mystery, and both characters’ voices are lovely to listen to. There is a certain amount of logical simplicity in the way they view life. But their incomprehension of even the simplest social context or their sharp distaste of being touched, even for a hug by a loved one, is heart-breaking.

I just re-read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, thinking my son might like it since he liked Colin Fischer. It’s just as good of a read the second time, but I did notice a couple of things. The copious use of the “f” word, for one. The brutal murder of the next door neighbor’s dog with a pitchfork. Infidelity and the violence of a father against his autistic son.

I decided this would be one of those books my son can read when he gets a little older. For now, Colin Fischer is perfect.

 

Wonder

Oh my. This little novel  by R.J. Palacio is something special.

After years of being home-schooled, after years of surgeries to imperfectly correct the perfect storm of syndromes that have devastated his face, August Pullman is about to enter the 5th grade of a private school. Told initially from his point of view, August experiences every cruelty you can imagine from his classmates, both to his face and behind his back. But something amazing happens: Auggie likes school, and he begins to make friends. Good friends who will stand behind him even when every 5th grader turns their back on them just for befriending Auggie.

But just when you start to feel a bit of triumph on Auggie’s behalf, the perspective shifts to his older sister, Via. And here, we learn about the ramifications of having a sibling with an altered face: August is the sun, and the entire family revolves around him. The lack of attention on Via, the odd looks she gets from others as they realize she’s the one with that brother, the simultaneous love and embarrassment she feels about Auggie…the painfully real feelings of a teenage girl in high school are achingly portrayed.

The perspective shifts again to Auggie’s friends and the battles they go through simply for the right to be his friend within the societal hierarchy of the 5th grade. These are the ones that get to know the real Auggie, who have the courage to ask questions like (I’m paraphrasing here) “Dude…can’t you get plastic surgery?” to which Auggie replies “This is with plastic surgery.”

I could not put this book down. The honesty, the kindness, the fear, the heartbreak, the hope, the devastation, and the triumph told in turn by the various characters from their perspectives on this unique individual was a complete joy to read.

Everyone: stop what you’re doing and read this book. It won’t take you long, I promise, for you will not be able to put it down until you’ve finished it.

It is that good.

GUILT

February 13, 2013 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself

Image from psychologytoday.com

When the social worker from hospice care came to visit soon after we moved my dad back home, we discovered he was a storyteller. Michael didn’t just lay out the facts; he illustrated them using the tales of others that have already completed the journey my dad has begun. My sister and I listened avidly, cataloguing the list of landmarks we’d see as he would gradually turn inward to gather energy for dying.

For my dad, however, I can only imagine that this was incredibly difficult to hear. Michael made it easy by couching it in terms of others. I could almost see the wheels turning in my dad’s head as he spun the web of denial that has become second nature to him. “He’s talking about other people,” I guessed he was thinking. “That won’t be me.”

Then Michael turned to my sister and I and told us different tales, those of caregivers and loved ones and the paths they traveled. He singled me out specifically to say “Guilt has no place here.” He was referring to the fact that I was unable to be here full-time for my dad like my sister could and that I, in all probability, would miss the moment where my dad would slip forever from the land of the living.

At the time, I remember thinking: “But I don’t feel guilty.” There was no time. Things were moving so fast. Giving half my time to my boys at home and the other half to my dad was all I could even think of doing.

But the days my dad had left on this earth have turned into weeks. Is this good? I don’t know.

When I watch his face light up as he peruses a new book just delivered by Amazon, when I see him enjoy a warm cinnamon roll, or when we have conversations where he is lucid and alert, I think his extra time here is a gift. Finally, his stubbornness in listening to those in the medical establishment is serving him well.

Watching him vomit up more bites of food than he can keep down, suffer through insomnia, battle weakness, fatigue, confusion, and the loss of the ability to do almost all of the activities he used to enjoy, and I wonder….

For me, the extra time has allowed guilt to arrive. I feel guilty about leaving my sister to take care of my dad alone. I feel guilty about leaving my kids for so long and for so often. I feel guilty about having to rely on others to help my family while I am out of town, and I feel guilty when I’m home and not with my dad, knowing that he has precious little time left.

Guilt, guilt, and more guilt.

But Michael said “Guilt has no place here.”

Is it possible that he is right?

Today I’m leaving on a plane with my sons for a mid-winter vacation we had planned months ago. I’m leaving my sister alone with my dad, knowing that anything could happen while I’m gone. And I’m trying to make peace with the guilt.

Does leaving make me a bad daughter? A bad sister? A selfish person? All of the above? Maybe.

But I miss my kids. I’ve missed every basketball game and indoor soccer game my two oldest sons have played this season. I’ve missed doing homework with them, reading them bedtime stories, and listening to their chatter about their day when they walk in the door from school. I’ve missed lounging by them on the couch on a lazy rainy day, watching the Super Bowl with them, and simply being a part of their daily lives.

Our family needs to regroup. We need to get away and re-connect as a core unit. I need to be in the land of the living for awhile: laughing, loving life, enjoying things again with the people I love the most.

I don’t know what will happen while I’m gone, but I do know this: our vacation is a gift. I am going to soak up every last minute of this quality time with my sons, and guilt is not invited.

But I’m sure it will be waiting for me when I get home.

UFC FIGHTING: HERE COMES THE BOOM

February 11, 2013 in Adventures in Parenting

 A long time ago, I met a wonderful woman with 2 sons and a daughter. She loved going to craft fairs, her home was sprinkled with fresh flowers from her garden, and when she’d give you a gift, it was meticulously wrapped with silk and tulle ribbons.

In other words, she was feminine.

So imagine my surprise when one day she exclaimed with glee over the WWF tickets she had just purchased. WWF? WTF? “My sons introduced me to it,” she shrugged casually. “Now I’m hooked.”

Okayyy, I thought to myself. I don’t care how many sons I have. I am never going to like the WWF.

Since that pre-sons day of naivete, I have attended Monster Truck shows (which are actually kind of fun) and learned the ins and outs of slider underwear, necessary for holding a protective cup in place during baseball season. I have been sucked into TV shows such as “Call of the Wildman”, which features a Kentucky native with shockingly few teeth left diving into the skankiest ponds and bogs you can imagine to catch snapping turtles…and I like them. And I have been introduced to UFC fighting.

UFC fighting is disgusting and disturbing. Elbow shots to the forehead result in large gashes that spill copious amounts of blood. Roundhouse kicks to the head shown over and over again in slow motion reveal every drop of sweat and spittle of saliva exploding from the fighter at point of impact. Hands continually slide over a slippery, sweaty body in the hopes that some kind of grip can be managed and maintained, and if you’ve ever seen a UFC fighter succumb to the guillotine hold, it’s…well, it’s not pretty. I still have nightmares about it.

So why would I suggest watching a movie entitled Here Comes the Boom that is all about UFC fighting?

Well, it stars Kevin James, and he’s funny. The trailer made it look like a light-hearted comedy and my dad, my sister, and I were in the mood for something light, so this movie seemed to fit the bill.

Can I just say I loved this movie? Kevin James was funny, but this movie was all about heart and triumph.

Kevin James plays burnt out high school biology teacher Scott Voss who somehow gets himself involved in saving the music program, lead by a charming Henry Winkler. They need to raise $48,000 by the end of the school year, so Scott returns to his stint teaching citizenship classes at night to a group of quirky immigrants. But the pay isn’t nearly enough. One thing leads to another, and Scott finds himself seeking UFC training from a student in his immigration class because Scott has learned that even if he loses, he earns money. They set out with lofty goals: to lose their way to the $48,000.

Along the way, there are obstacles. His star student/musical prodigy is going to have to give up her dreams to work in her father’s failing restaurant, Scott cannot seem to land a date with the school nurse played by Salma Hayek, and he is getting his ass kicked on a weekly basis–but he’s slowly earning money.

I love a movie with a Rocky-esque training montage and the merry band of misfits that come together to be Scott’s crew in the ring was a humorous delight. The transformation of Kevin James’ body as his training progressed was impressive to watch (the views of the arms of his ripped trainers didn’t hurt either). In fact, co-star and real life trainer Mark DellaGrotte had this to say about Kevin James’ training:

“I normally put a fighter through 10 to 12 weeks of training camp. Kevin went through more than two years of preparation for this movie. I’m talking about training, dieting, sweating, hitting pads, rolling with Bas Rutten, doing jiu-jitsu – we were pulling out kitchen sinks and throwing them at this guy. He trained just as hard as any fighter I’ve ever trained for the Octagon.”

Yes, there was plenty of UFC fighting too. Elbow blows, kicks to the head, body slams to the ground, repeated punches to the face, and blood, sweat, and spit flying everywhere. I don’t know if it’s because of my own kickboxing classes that I can now appreciate the beauty of a well-executed roundhouse kick or hook shot, or if it’s because I’m a sucker for any come-from-behind underdog story where the protagonist stops aiming to lose and starts trying to win, but the fight sequences weren’t as disturbing as I thought they would be. As in, I only looked away every fourth or fifth body blow instead of closing my eyes during the entire fight sequence as usual.

I can’t see myself gloating over my own set of UFC tickets in the future, but if I happen to wander in and see that my boys are watching a UFC fight, I just might plop myself down on the couch and watch for a bit.

As long as there aren’t any guillotine holds: that’s where I draw the line.

 

 

 

A GOOD NIGHT: TOWER HEIST

February 8, 2013 in Random Thoughts

My dad is a movie lover of epic proportions. He’s also obsessive, so he has a list cataloguing every movie he’s ever seen in his life. As a retired librarian, his list is nicely arranged in alphabetical order with asterisks noting the ones he’s seen in Blu-Ray and special notations for the IMAX films. A conservative estimate of the number of movies he’s seen in his life? 4400.

My sister loves movies just as much as my dad, and has her own list going. I love movies too—although I don’t keep a list, which is probably a good thing. Since I tend to watch the same movie over and over again, my list of movies would probably amount to 20 original movies watched over 1000 times. Re-watching movies, by the way, is something my dad never does.

Is it any wonder that as we sit holed up in my dad’s home together, we wind down our evenings by watching a movie?

There is a whole stack of movies to choose from brought to us by Blockbuster and Netflix. For some reason, both my sister and I latched on to Tower Heist, a 2011 release starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. With those two, it was guaranteed to be funny, and with a name like Tower Heist, suspense was bound to be involved. The only problem? My dad had already seen it.

“That’s ok,” we convinced him. “You’ve been falling asleep through all the other movies we’ve watched. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already seen it.” It was a small miracle that he let us get away with that.

And so began a perfectly wonderful night of movie viewing.

Tower Heist has an all-star cast. Alan Alda plays a smarmy wealthy businessman who makes off with the pensions of his staff he had promised to invest. When one of the charming staff members attempts to commit suicide after losing his life savings, Ben Stiller’s Josh Kovaks concocts a scheme to get their money back by breaking into Alan Alda’s high-rise penthouse suite and stealing the money he is sure is locked in a hidden safe.

But he can’t do it alone. He enlists the help of the fabulous Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Michael Pena, and Gabourey Sidibe, but there’s just one thing: none of them have ever stolen anything before. They need a real thief to show them the ropes.

Enter Eddie Murphy as Slide, a rubber-faced actor who can make me laugh hysterically with a simple lift of an eyebrow.

This movie has references to movies and TV shows I love: Ocean’s Eleven, The Doberman Gang, Davy and Goliath, and H.R. Pufnstuf. Plus it is set in New York City during the Macy’s Day parade…what is not to love about this movie?

Anyone else remember "The Doberman Gang"?

There’s a great plotting scene in Ocean’s Eleven that goes a little something like this:

Saul: I have a question. Say we get into the cage, and through the security doors there and down the elevator we can’t move, and past the guards with the guns, and into the vault we can’t open…

Rusty: Without being seen by the cameras.

Danny: Oh yeah, sorry, I forgot to mention that.

Saul: Yeah well, say we do all that… uh… we’re just supposed to walk out of there with $150,000,000 in cash on us, without getting stopped?

[pause as everyone turns to look at Danny]

Danny: Yeah.

Saul: Oh. Okay.

Tower Heist has a similar scene, but when Ben Stiller begins to talk strategy by showing a photo of the tower lobby, things get segued (I’m paraphrasing liberally!):

“Who’s that hot girl in the red dress?”

“She’s a lesbian.”

“She’s a lesbian?”

The conversation drifts so far from the topic that Michael Pena finally has to ask: “So this robbery basically involves running a gauntlet of lesbians?”

There’s plenty of laugh-out-loud humor, especially between Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, there’s a lot of heart, and there’s even a hint of romance between Ben Stiller and Tea Leoni’s FBI agent.

Best of all, my dad stayed awake for the whole movie and laughed out loud with us, reveling in the shots of NYC, arguably his favorite place in the world, and he didn’t complain once that he had seen the movie before.

It was a really good night with my dad.

 

ROUGH NIGHTS

February 6, 2013 in Random Thoughts

Notes:

1)      In the middle of the night, my dad does not whisper. He uses his normal speaking voice, only louder.

2)      I get very cranky when I’m woken up in the middle of the night.

 

9:00pm Lights Out

11:00pm

DAD: Where is everybody?

ME: I’m here.

11:10pm

DAD: Where is everybody?

ME: I’m here.

DAD: Are my feet out in the open?

ME: (getting up from the couch and tucking the blankets more snugly around his feet) No, they’re fine.

11:15pm

DAD: Are my sheets almost tangled in my legs?

ME: (getting up and adjusting his blankets) No, they’re fine.

11:30pm

DAD: Can my feet be rubbed?

ME: No. You need to sleep. And so do I.

11:40am

DAD: Can you do my hands?

ME: What?

DAD: Can you do my hands?

ME: (pause) What?

DAD: Wash them with a wet washcloth.

ME: (getting up and grabbing a Wet One) Like this?

DAD: Yes. That’s what I needed.

11:55pm

DAD: My feet feel weird.

ME: (getting up and holding his hand) You need to relax.

DAD: (irritated) How can I relax when I haven’t “laxed” in the first place?

ME: (pause) Well, maybe you should think about word plays while you try to sleep. (pause) You need a stuffed animal.

DAD: (still irritated) What? A “black” animal?

ME: (louder) No, a stuffed animal.

DAD: I need a real animal.

ME: Get some sleep.

12:15am

DAD: (pops up suddenly to a sitting position and scares the wits out of me)

ME: What’s the matter?

DAD: I just can’t sleep.

ME: (getting up and holding his hand) I have to sleep. I can’t stay up all night talking to you or I will fall apart tomorrow.

DAD: I don’t want you to do that.

ME: Just sleep. I’ll be right here all night.

DAD: Ok.

12:30am

DAD: I have to go to the bathroom.

ME: (sigh) Ok.

DAD: I need a magazine and my glasses.

ME: Ok. (wheeling him to his bathroom)

DAD: (laughing) I guess if I can’t sleep, no one can sleep!

ME: Sshhh! Don’t wake up my sister. This is her night off! Here we are. I’ll be right outside. Call me when you’re done.

DAD: What?

ME: (louder) I’m right outside. Call me when you’re done.

DAD: Oh. Ok. (pause) Um…I need toilet paper!

ME: Ok.

DAD: I’m done. Now I need to wash my hands.

ME: Ok. (wheel him to one of two sinks on his counter)

DAD: What day did I go into the hospital?

ME: Thursday, January 17.

DAD: What day is it today?

ME: Sunday, January 27…very early Sunday morning. When you wake up, it will still be Sunday morning.

DAD: Oh.

ME: You’ve been home almost a week.

DAD: Oh.

ME: Are you going to wash your hands?

DAD: (pointing) Not this sink. I need that one.

ME: (rolling my eyes) It’s late. Can’t you use this one?

DAD: (stubbornly) But my soap’s at that one.

ME: (reaching across for the soap and plopping it down in front of him) Here’s your soap.

DAD: (pause) But this sink will get dirty.

ME: I’ll clean it tomorrow.

DAD: Fine. (pause) It’s funny…I never use this sink.

ME: Hmm. Done?

DAD: Yes.

ME: Let’s get you back to bed.

DAD: I just can’t seem to sleep.

ME: Do you want to read?

DAD: I don’t want to bother you.

ME: It won’t bother me if you’re quietly reading.

DAD: I don’t want to read.

ME: Ok. (getting him back to bed) Now, get some sleep, ok?

DAD: Ok. Thanks. (pause) You girls have really come through for me.

ME: Hmm.

1:31am

DAD: Can I have a cough drop? My mouth tastes funny.

ME: (getting up) Here’s one and I put a pile on your table.

1:40am

DAD: (scares the wits out of me when he accidentally clocks his leg into his bedside table.

1:45am

DAD: (knocks his box of tissues off his bedside table)

ME: (getting up to retrieve them from the floor.)

2:10am

DAD: (scares the wits out of me when he pops straight up in bed)

ME: (getting up to shift his feet over into the center of the bed so he doesn’t roll off the side)

2:25am

DAD: My feet are dangling off the edge of the bed. I need help.

ME: (getting up) Can’t you lift them up yourself? (placing them in the bed)

DAD: Oh.

2:45am

DAD: What was I trying to do?

ME: Sleep.

2:57am

DAD: (loudly) I’m starting to get a headache. (falls asleep)

3:15am

DAD: (popping straight up into a seated position, scaring the wits out of me.) I need a sleep aid.

ME: You already took one.

DAD: I did?

ME: Yes.

DAD: It’s not working.

ME: Yes, I know. (darkly) We’ll get you a stronger one tomorrow.

3:22am

DAD: (popping straight up into a seated position, scaring the wits out of me.)

3: 35am

DAD: (scares the wits out of me when he crashes his arm into his bedside table)

3:50am

DAD: (blowing his nose) Oh, that’s gross. (blows his nose three more times)

4:30am

DAD: (popping straight up into a seated position, scaring the wits out of me) I just can’t sleep. Sleep is not permitted.

ME: Do you want to read?

DAD: No. I guess I’ll just lie back down. (sleeps solid for the next three hours)

 

 

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE

February 4, 2013 in Random Thoughts

Once upon a time, I was a mother of infants and toddlers. I fed them, dressed them, and changed their diapers. I made sure to honor their nap schedule so they wouldn’t get overtired and cranky, and I arranged outings for us for a change of scenery. I talked to them, read to them, and played games with them. In short, my days were filled with making them comfortable, healthy, and happy.

Now, as I spend my days shuttling back and forth between my Seattle home and northern California, I find myself right back in that world. This time, it’s my dad who needs the care.

My sister and I make sure he’s fed, but for pleasure instead of health. All restrictions are off. Every time he asks “What’s for dinner?” we say “What do you want?” and then that’s what we have. I watched him eat a snack of vanilla sugar wafers, a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream, and a handful of lemon cookies because sweet is the one taste he can still appreciate.

My dad, who used to run all his life, who used to leave me in his dust when I’d run with him, can barely stand by himself anymore. So now I run for him. I bring him back tales of the wildlife I’ve seen on my morning runs along the paths he’s forged: jack rabbits, ducks, and geese, and even the odd pot-smoking students out for a morning stroll.

We help him get dressed and slide his slippers on his feet for trips in his wheelchair. We watch vigilantly as he gets in and out of bed, in and out of clothes, and on and off the toilet.

Sleep is a major issue. He’s tired, understandably, but the nights are rough. He can’t get comfortable. He’s restless and thinking too much in the dark where there are no distractions. He pops up and we rush to his side, worried that in this half-asleep state, he might think he can get up and start walking, or that he’ll roll out of his bed. He doesn’t sleep well, so neither do we. It’s like sleeping with an infant in the house all over again. We’re hoping some doctor-prescribed medication might help, like the age-old trick of sedating your child with Benadryl for a long plane ride.

We are walking the line between giving him the independence he so desperately wants and recognizing that there is not much he can do on his own anymore.

It’s like the new walker who thinks he can maintain his balance for many more steps than he can. I used to hover around my kids as they took their first steps, ready for a fall at any moment. But I knew that with time, they would become better, more confident walkers, and as long as there wasn’t a coffee table with sharp corners nearby, they would bounce back quickly from a fall.

With my dad, my sister and I hover around him because we all know that were he to fall and break a bone, he’d land back in the hospital, and he does not want to go back there. We also know that as time goes by, his abilities will only decline.

My days at my dad’s home are spent trying to keep him happy and comfortable, for healthy is no longer an option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TROUBLE WITH SECRETS, PART 3

February 1, 2013 in Random Thoughts

 

Read The Trouble With Secrets, Part 1 here.

Read The Trouble With Secrets, Part 2 here.

I spent the weekend of January 17 in a hospital.

My dad had not been feeling well: we knew that. Was he depressed? Was he ill? Would he go to the doctor?

He might. He had bills to pay and the yard to care of, and a couple of errands to run and maybe he’d make one of those errands a doctor’s visit. Or maybe he wouldn’t.

He didn’t.

As I sat by his bedside listening to doctor after doctor come in and talk abut the serious medical situation he was in, I kicked myself for not being more insistent that he seek medical care sooner. I kicked myself for not hopping on a plane earlier, throwing him in a car, and driving him to a doctor myself.

But he lives far away, and he’s my dad: very stubborn, and as it turns out, quite the keeper of secrets.

I will never forget that moment in the hospital room when, with my dad’s permission, the doctor finally told me the truth: My dad had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010 and had refused treatment. The dire health problems he now had were a direct result of a disease I never even knew he had.

Nobody knew. He told no one.

I turned from the doctor to my dad as if in slow motion, trying to understand the ramifications of the news I had just heard, and I caught the look on my dad’s face: sheepish, afraid, sad, and guilty, all wrapped into a shell of the man I used to know.

I couldn’t stay angry with him: I was too worried. I was too aware that he could have died in his home, and I was too thankful to have the time to say goodbye.

But I still struggle. Of course I respect his privacy, but is it fair that I had to go from having a dad that might be depressed or mildly ill to a dad that had to enter hospice care in the span of a January weekend? Would a small sacrifice of privacy of his part have made this particular weekend, and every weekend for the past three years, a much different experience?

I wonder…

And I will continue to wonder long after my dad has left.