Saturday, March 24, 2012

Evidently Far-Off is Now Close-By

Last night was a foggy evening here in Wisconsin.  During the day the birds came out to sing a few songs to coax spring to come out and bloom.  Intermittent rain and dismal clouds brought a mostly gloomy day.  This day found Dad in a slight state of confusion, not sure if there was some thing or some where he had to be.  Dad called me several times to tell me he just felt a little confused and wasn’t sure what was going on.  I convinced him he was fine, that all he had to worry about was his schedule for the day, and that nothing unusual was to happen.  I think what was going on was that I had discussed with him a lunch we had planned with my sister, Terri, for the next day and he was having difficulty putting facts and days and times together. 

Today he seemed a little brighter as Robin and I picked him up at his place.  Terri was under the weather so those plans were put aside.  A note on the counter to meet us in the lobby at 12:30 was successful and he was on time.  I was nervous at first meeting him this morning.  It is typically not a good idea to change the plans of someone with Alzheimer’s but today he forgot where we were going or who we were meeting.  We headed to lunch at a nearby restaurant, took him back to our place to show him the newly-cleaned apartment, and then returned home.  He had a good time, a great BLT and some onion rings.  And don’t forget the coffee…regular…black…nothing in it.  That’s been his mantra for years when ordering something to drink.  Coffee…regular…black…nothing in it.  Gotta love routine!

Recently, slightly re-arranged living room...
note Rita on the couch!
I spent some time in the apartment with him today looking around.  I had my usual play time with Rita.  Now there’s an odd one, Rita. She adored Mom and no doubt misses her.  She and Dad got a long but never played and many times she would shy away from him when he tried to put her harness and leash on.  Now they have it down to a science – harness on in the morning, and off in the evening.  Its part of the routine and Rita knows it now. A unique thing happens when I show up – she goes a little crazy.  Okay – she goes very crazy. And it happens each time I show up.  When others arrive she looks and then stands in the corner watching everyone. She’s warming up to Robin and sticks around, even lets him walk her.  But I need to get my ten minutes of play time in with Rita – get on the floor, put her on the couch, and play hide-my-face-so-she-doesn’t-bite-it-off.  She won’t actually bite me but we have a good time.  Dad watches, a big smile on his face.  We notice that today is a little odd in his behavior.  As we were in the living room we watched Dad slip away to the bedroom.  He stayed there about ten minutes then returned, then went back in.  I followed him and he was standing there at the foot of their bed just looking around.  I put my arm around him, “You ok, Dad?” 
“Oh yeah, I’m fine.”
“It’s hard to come in here sometimes”
“Why’s that?”
“Hard to be here where Mom was when she was with us.”

“Oh yeah.  Yeah its hard alright but I have this photo of her next to my side of the bed and I say good-night to her every night.”

Later in the day I would hear from my brother, Glen.  He called Dad and talked for a bit and Dad told him that he was out walking Rita and wasn’t sure where Mom was.  He came in just as the phone was ringing and Glen said he was able to talk him through it easily.  A very simple reminder that she passed away was all that was needed.  This has been a big point of anxiety for me.  I know the day may come when he starts to ask where Mom is but I was hoping that day was far off.  Evidently far-off is now close-by.

The pain I feel when I enter their apartment is hard to describe.  We helped them pick it out, moved them, and helped to decorate it as well.  It was in that apartment that Mom and I shared many laughs, serious conversations, and where we talked about her concern for Dad should the cancer take her.  I have a hard time stepping in to the bathroom where she collapsed from a stroke on the morning we ended up taking her to hospice.  It hurts but I wonder about the pain that Dad feels.  Does he remember those moments or does he simply remember her presence?  I think he remembers her presence and not specific moments.  That’s my guess but he doesn’t talk about it much.  Sometimes I walk down the hall and remember, vividly, walking behind the ambulance gurney carrying her to the emergency room.  I step out the front doors and can still see the ambulance there.  I step up in to the passenger seat and look out the window as Robin and Dad’s brother, Uncle Keith, help Dad to the car.  The ambulance driver asks me about mom’s DNR (do not resuscitate) order and I rescind that order for the ambulance ride over.  All these things, step by step, race through my mind each time I’m there and sometimes they cause me to break down.  But I have not seen one tear on Dad’s face since the day she passed in hospice. Even then there were not many.  How is he coping?  How does he feel?  Has Alzheimer’s robbed him already of his ability to remember enough to solicit an emotional response?  Is he being the strong former-Navy guy and firefighter and not showing his emotions to us?  I believe my Dad is being a Father – an incredible father.  He knows how hurt I am.  He watched me for five days stand at her bedside and weep, at one time holding my head to his chest and saying, “I know son, I know.”   He watched me collapse at the hospital after they took Mom away.  As people assume it is Alzheimer’s I believe that, although influenced by the disease, he is being an incredible man of honor and caring for his children the best way he knows how.  Mom would be so incredible proud of him. 

Dad – you’ve stepped up.  You are doing so well this month.  You are taking care of yourself, of Rita, and the household.  You are coping well and I’m proud of you.  When you feel confused and not sure what’s going on, just remember to stop and relax.  Do what you always told me to do when I got anxious – breath deep, close your eyes, and think of a quiet place you would rather be. 

Dear Mom – Dad is doing fine.  He’s mourning and he is sad, of course.  But he is doing well.  He is doing his chores just like you taught him.  He is eating although perhaps more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches than you would prefer but at least he is eating.  You would be proud – I know you would.

No comments: