Friday, April 20, 2012

Another Day of Surprises

About a year ago I vividly remember Dad’s apprehension to talking on the cell phone. He just did not like it. He would not make calls on it and would not answer it. That was mom’s department. In fact, he hated talking on it. I think Mom would be very proud of him right now. Not only is he making phone calls when he needs to (I put my number on speed dial) but he actually likes talking on it. I got a new phone plan and Robb gave him one of his phones and he adjusted with no problems at all. In fact, sometimes he calls me several times a day! He’ll call and tell me he’s running low on milk or that he needs toothpaste. Occasionally he calls back because he can’t remember if he asked me or not. I don’t make a deal of it.

I visit almost every day. I take the occasional day off because I know that I need to in order to help my emotional health. But it really is no big deal to stop by and visit for a while. Sometimes it is only for ten minutes and other times a few hours. The first thing that happens when I walk in is that Rita goes absolutely insane! I have to make my way to the couch and get on the floor. She uses me to climb up on to the couch (she’s too short to make the jump herself) and then she goes nuts for about ten minutes! It does the heart well, for sure. Then I get up and hug Dad.

Yesterday was a shocking day for me and I’m still processing. Dad took of his wedding ring and put one of his Navy rings in its place. My heart sunk to my ankles but I didn’t let on. I simply said to Dad, “that must have been a hard decision” to which he responded, “yes it was”. I’m sure that the reason he took it off was that it was just too painful. To always have it on your hand to remind you that your wife is gone has to be a tremendous burden. So we talked about it for a while and then moved on to other subjects. I am not sure yet how to process that but I’ll make sure to bring it up to my therapist!

I think Dad is getting bored. We’ll be working on getting him some social opportunities next week. it would be good for him to be among other people even if it is something as simple as having a cup of coffee.

Dad is ready to move back to Florida. We had this conversation with Mom and she totally approved. HE is ready to leave the winters and the cold weather behind. He really wants to move back to Tallahassee but he has the image of the place 15 years ago and it has changed since then. He wants to be a part of the Older-American Program through the Forest Service but fails to remember that they stopped that program many years ago. He is fine with moving back to the Clearwater area which is where we have our sights set on. “Just as long as we can get away from the hurricanes”, Dad reminds me. He doesn’t remember we stayed through five of them over the years we were there.

We talk about Mom every time I go over there. Sometimes he has something that belonged to her and he wants to get it out of the house. It is something I don’t understand but it is not my place to question. It feels strange getting rid of stuff but it must be uncomfortable for him. I took some coats she had including the last one she wore. As I walked down the hall away from his apartment, holding them in my arms, I planted my face in them and breathed in deep. The tears started immediately – it smelled just like Mom. I wondered if Dad did the same thing. I wonder how he feels in that place where she was. He won’t talk about it much but he says he misses her every moment of the day.

What hurts is that there are so many small moments, seemingly unimportant in the grand scheme of life, that are heart-breakers. We’ll notice an item is moved. The bedroom furniture was re-arranged, and some art work exchanged on the walls. He’s making the space his own so he feels comfortable.

I have noticed an on-going issue with people around him. I suppose it is common with Alzheimer’s patients. They are not sure what to talk about. For some reason there is a hesitation and a down-right fear of engaging him in casual conversation. He will rarely start the conversation but once you get going he does become engaged and involved. It is just that people are afraid to start it. The thing is – you can have the same conversation with him today as you did three days ago because he doesn’t recall it. That sounds cruel but if you use that as the starting point for conversation, somewhere in his mind that conversation is sparking interest in his brain. His brain remembers it but he can’t recall it. But it engages him – it sparks his interest.

Dear Lord, what will the next surprise be? Help me face the future with courage and a smile, even in the midst of this great unknown disease. Help me remember that you are with me today, tomorrow, and always. Amen.

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