Western education 2013

Monday, November 28, 2011

.... my daughter pays a visit....

..... it is Sunday (yesterday) and I want to bring Lydia with me.  It has been a stressful weekend and I need to spend time with her.  She tags along and walks beside me as we search for my Dad.  It is only 11:30 but he has gone back to bed and is trying to take a nap.  He says he is tired of waiting for lunch.  I note all the other residents have seated themselves and are also waiting to each lunch.  It will be an hour before they place the first bowl of soup in front of them.  We wait outside of Dad's room while he puts on his pants.  He calls to us through the door that he is putting on his shoes.  Lydia is quick to bend over and tie his shoes.  Dad grins and tousles her hair.

Today Dad recognizes her and smiles into her upturned face.  She will take him by the hand and lead him down the hallway, past the waiting residents and along to the sunroom at the end of the hall.  Dad stops along the way and looks at the pictures hung on each wall.  He tells me that they are pictures of Tim and him and points to them.... he is far away and pulling at long ago memories.  I nod and agree and we move along to the sunroom.  Lydia wants to engage in play and goes to the games shelves back down the hall while I move a chair into place near the glass topped table.  Lydia has found some primary puzzles.  Within a few minutes, she informs Grandpa that he sucks at puzzles and informs him that it is now time to play Bingo.  Bob the Banker shuffles in with a grin and waits for us to say hello before he sinks into a chair opposite me.  Lydia gives Bob a card and deals out one to Dad and myself and proceeds to spin the ball.  I am now looking at everyone's cards.  A few minutes later, it is lunchtime.

Bob is off and racing down the hall as fast as one can when you shuffle.  Dad is being pulled along behind Miss Lydia and I take up the rear with a hand full of game pieces.  We sit with the residents who love the attention and chat with Lydia.  Donna is sweet but today she is off and wants to run away.  I give her a big hug and smile as I steer her back to her seat.  Marie is dripping soup into her lap and Joyce is her sharp witted self... which lasts a minute before she pipes up with a hi.... and followed by a 'I know who you are'!!  She is distracted by lunch and the room is quiet.  Marie doesn't want to eat today and is asking for my help.  She has forgotten to put her napkin on her lap and is dripping most of her soup in her lap.  She often walks around wearing sweaters that advertise boldly what her plate held the meal before.

These are the golden years????  Lydia is sweet with her Grandpa and the other residents and lets me know that she thinks the ladies are all so pretty.  She is right.  We kiss and hug my Dad, say bye to the other residents and then we are off to shop for Daddy's birthday gift.  Lydia loves to shop and who can blame her!!

Happy Birthday Max,
I love you now and always.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

..... taking down a wish list....

..... tonight I popped in to see Dad on my way home from a long day at work.  It is getting cooler and the snap in the air is accompanied by the rain as I jump between puddles on my way tthrough the parking lot.  It is a typical late fall evening - dark, damp and windy.  I enter the home and make my way through the secured entrance.  Dad is standing in the middle of the dinning room just peering around.  The caregiver lets him know that he has a visitor.  'Ah Hello!'  He cracks a great big grin as he spins to face me and grabs me for a hug when I get closer.  He is so happy to see me, and I, him.  He has great color in his face tonight.  The gray in his face is fleeting now as he gains strength with each passing day.  He is moving better but still hunched over.  He will later tell me that his crooked pinkie finger on the right hand was broken by some bloke and he is still pissed about it.  A quick re-direct in a positive direction has us talking about art.  I ask him about the beautiful marble Greek Statues.  He loves Art and quickly falls into an easy candor with me.

Soon the distant glance and a chewed lip as he let's me in on his secret mission.  He needs a pad of paper and a good pen to write out his notes and I promise to bring him his requested items along with a brief to hold them in.  He describes the expensive waterway locks that are built just outside his window with their pristine white concrete walls.  I am sure he can smell the occasional ocean breezes of his youth as the experiences of a lifetime have slipped through the passage of time and blended with the present.  The wooden fence mere steps away has the look of driftwood on the 'shore' that runs along side the building.  He is here as an agent and I am sworn to secrecy.  No worries, as far as anyone knows Dad, you are here on some R&R and as long as the bill is footed, just sit back and take it all in.  He likes it here and finds serenity.... except for those darn people that he keeps finding in his room.  I tell him to just let them know that they can leave when you arrive, after all Dad, it is your room.  Be nice though, they might not realize that it is your room and be polite but firm when you ask them to move along.  Perhaps he is seeing the 'other side'.... I hope he is wrong when he abruptly declares that he won't be around for much longer.

A frail woman behind us is experiencing chest pains and has begun to panic in a high pitched tone.  I can hear the calmness of the caregiver as she administers what I believe to be nitro.  She is guided to a seat where she sits wide eyed and scared.... within a minute, she has forgotten the issue entirely and gets up to move on to wherever she was headed before being rudely interrupted.  Marie is really off her game this evening.  She is always drawn to me and will follow me around.  She takes solace in the hugs and smiles I offer her and then she too is shuffling off with her vacant stare.  Tonight she will be asked to fold laundry to keep her focused.  My Dad is tiring out and I need to head home for a meal. I have been gone since 7 am and it is now 7:15 pm.  I give my Dad a hug and a kiss and guide him next to Marie to help fold the napkins in the bottom of the basket now offered by the caregiver.  He is thrilled to help and meticulously folds the first one as I wave bye.  He calls to me that he loves me.  Love you too Dad, I offer back over my shoulder.  I am so glad you are here with me Dad.... and I know he is happy to be with us here.

Time to head up to bed... exhausted but happy.  Life is good.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

.... the escape plan....

..... my Dad is looking better, feeling better and is planning on having me assist him in escaping.  The people on the floor where he lives, as far as he thinks, are all trying to take his things and they gather in his room and sit on his furniture while crowding his personal space.  I begin to straighten out his laundry which is folded but placed every which way in his closet.  He leans in and describes a hat he has had for over 70 years.. he wore it as a student and it is threadbare - I know he has that vacant far off stare.  His lucid moments are peppered with memories of long ago and places far away.  His friend Tim died, he says, as he looks into the distant past over my shoulder and fingers a vest.  He went to school with him and although he was 5 or so years older, the man died a few weeks after their last evening of drink and laughter.  I am trying to guess the man's age but Dad says he thinks he was 60.  He snaps into focus and within minutes.... he is gone again talking about Tim dying a lonely death.  He says he hasn't much time left.... figures his own end will come in a few weeks and although he is not afraid to die, he doesn't want to leave without Mom.  (Tim was the son of the head master and was about 5 or 6 years older than Dad. He passed when he was in his early 20's to mid 30's at our best guess)

Mom is a tough subject these days.  I let Dad talk to her on my cell phone on my last visit with him.  She admits to me that she loves her newfound freedom and takes full advantage of the time by being out for most of the day.  She is finally free after 3 years of being his caregiver.  She also didn't do a very good job of taking care of him and is quick to point out all his flaws.  My mother has dementia and has delusions.  Her lies and truths have no distinct boundaries.  She is beyond reproach and has no guilt that Dad is far away and feeling isolated.  She has lost empathy and respect for him years ago.  Her upbringing was incredibly harsh and one rife with punishment.  Her lies in her youth would often protect her from punishment and as far as my sister and I can tell, she has become incredibly proficient at deflecting responsibility and blame for anything.  I am sad for both my parents - born into the war years, victims of the war and of the parents whose harsh and unbending attitudes altered the course of their own ability to raise their children.  I am grateful that I have not repeated history in the raising of my own children.

I am trying to move Mom here in the spring.  She will have her own apartment with assistive care as soon as we can sell the farm house.  She has a lengthy wish list of what she wants in her new life should she decide to move but no where do her plans involve her husband of 50 years.  She does not want to live with him and is considering whether she will visit him at all should she move here but that is something we will deal with later.  She called me tonight and spoke for over an hour.... she wants to be with me and the children and is trying to sort out her stuff for an early spring move.  She is grateful that we are looking out for them and she thanks me for taking Dad out and keeping him company through the week.

I am taking the high road and just spending time with my Dad trying to reminisce about times I know he would remember.  Such a lost soul who really though that everything he was doing was what his family would have wanted.  Growing up in a boarding house with nuns certainly taught him that having a family might mean he would be valued and loved...... I am sad for him and I love my father.  I sit with him for hours laughing about the silly things that happened.  He thanks me for the wonderful memories as I walk him to the dinner table.  He reminds me that he will have his bags packed and ready to go.... he needs to leave and get back into the military.  Perhaps I can take him downtown too.  They have sent him here and he is waiting for his orders.  Dad, just enjoy the R & R.  Dear God, please be merciful and let him forget the things that bring him such painful memories of a life he did not deserve.  I love you Dad, sleep well.  Tomorrow I will pick you up for supper so you can spend time with the Grandkids. xoxoxoxo

I received a call this morning November 20th from the care nurse.  Dad has spent a tearful and restless night.  He thinks his wife is dead.   Lorna cannot seem to lift his spirits and has decided to call me.  I speak with him and let him know that Mom has been on the phone with me last night talking about her dinner out with friends.  I assure him that she is fine, just a little forgetful and I can hear the sadness start to ebb from his feeble voice.  She's fine I tell him again as I remind him that I am coming to get him this afternoon for a lovely walk in the neighborhood and dinner at our house.  He is looking forward to the visit and I sign off with a 'see you soon Dad'!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

.... Dancing with the elders...

... When you don't really know what to talk about to someone with Alzheimers whom you have known your entire life, it is often just best to keep things moving, lighthearted and loving.  My father's health is steadily improving and with the addition of antibiotics to combat a possible staf infection in the wound from his surgery, the tenderness and swelling should sort itself out.

Saturday afternoon, I took the two youngest kids and Max to visit my Dad in the afternoon.  The staff told us that they have a music lady coming at 3:30 and it might be fun for all of us.  Max and Mitchel drop Lydia, Dad and myself off after going out for coffee to Tim's.  Dad sure loves his sweets and he smiles broadly as he says thanks for taking him out.  Earlier when we stood in the now barren garden in the warmth of the sun, a train passed by to the south of us.  Dad thought it was a lovely view having the train run past the ocean like that.... where are you, I wonder as he grips my hand.  I guide him back through the doors and out to the van.... where have you gone?  Is it a place you grew up near, is it a place in your dreams?  You call me by name and you know my children but the photo of your wedding day is a strange one to you.  You shuffle with age but you are young.  You have vision problems but admire the beauty of my daughter's face.  You connect with strangers you barely know... and you know that you are slowly losing your wit.... where do you go when it becomes too much?

I wasn't feeling well today... it is Sunday and sadly, I have a lot of work to catch up with.  My sinuses are running and my temperature feels out of whack.  I am tired.  Yesterday I ran 2K and started the poolside practice in the morning.  I ache all the time but ignore the pain that will always be there.  My mother called last night.  It is rare if ever for her to call.  She wants to retire to a two room apartment and is unsettled that she might not get what she wants.  She hasn't asked about Dad but I offer her information anyway.  He is loving spending time with his grandchildren.  Lydia has started to hug him and he responds with a gentle laugh as he touches her face.  He is grateful that we are so close to him.  I am grateful he remembers us.  I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know him on a different level.  I have to sort out the truth from fantasy.  No matter how many times he tells me the same story, it is always met with fits of giggles and he warms to the notion that he has brought joy in his words.  The ladies around him find him charming.... he always could think quick on his feet and was always the entertainer.  God how I missed out on so much over the years Dad but I hope I am making up for it now when it really counts.

I love you Dad, good night.  I will see you tomorrow as I go looking for a place for you to call your last home.  I just want you to be happy.  I am hoping that we can get Mom moved down too.  At the very least, I can advocate for the both of them while they live close to us. xox

Saturday, November 5, 2011

..... when things fall into place

..... what a whirlwind week that began with tears and ended with ear to ear grins.  My sister Gina and brother Chris, bless their souls, have done an amazing job of organizing and making sure that my father has been seen by CCAC and evaluated for a placement while in the hospital.  He is stable and medicated appropriately and with that, his demeanor is steadily improving.  Friday morning just before my MRI, I called Gina at her request.  She asked me again if I wanted Dad to be placed in London and of course I emphatically said yes!!  I told her that I wanted him here as soon as possible.... that's when she told me that I was on speaker phone with CCAS and that my verbal yes was the permission they needed to place him in London!!!!!

 He will be arriving on Wednesday with my sister driving him from Smith Falls, at dinner time.  My mother has chosen to remain at the farm house but now has to wear an emergency button in case she requires assistance.  I have already assured her that her dogs will come and live with us when the time comes for her to leave the farm permanently.  She is understandably upset but I think she understands that it is necessary that she considers a relocation here to London.  We will put her name on a list but she will be located in a different retirement home/assistive apartment living when the time comes.  We are hoping that she becomes more willing to relocate when she discovers that living alone is not what she wants to do.  We can only hope that we do not have to force her to evacuate the premises.

Thank you to Gina and Christian for all the time spent preparing Dad and Mom for the huge transition over such a short time period.  I am so excited that Dad is coming to live here.  I have been forewarned that he is very thin from not eating properly.  My mother thought that he was making his own meals and taking his own medication.  It's hard to believe that my mother was allowed to take care of him in the state of mind that she is in.  It's OK though, that was then, this is now!!