Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Night Before...

Wedding Day, Mom and Dad
50 years Later
Today would have been my parents’ 51st wedding anniversary. Now we all know they were pretty young when they got married and the managed to beat all the odds!  They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2011 with friends and family and cake and lots of smiles and some tears.  We did not realize, of course, it would be their last anniversary together but Mom had a pretty good idea it was very possible.  Seven months later she would pass away with her beloved at her side, holding her hand.  Always there, always strong, always together.

Today I grocery shopped for my father as I do about every two weeks.  On the list:
  • Ritz Crackers
  • Bread (about ten loaves a month is what he goes through)
  • Yogurt (about 6 a month)
  • Turkey Burgers
  • Grape Jelly
  • Peanut Butter
  • Cheese
  • Honey
  • Canned Veggies (he doesn’t like the frozen stuff)
  • Something special from the bakery

Dad’s diet is extremely predictable.  The first 2-3 months after Mom’s passing he pretty much consumed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  We averaged 5 jars of peanut butter and jelly a month!  Finally I sat him down and told him we need to change up the diet.  It took about a month to get through to him including me going over there and cooking for him on occasion.  Now he cooks a turkey burger and veggies three times a week for his supper.  Once a week he’ll eat a turkey breast with veggies, the rest of the time its sandwiches.  At least I got him eating more protein and veggies and I get him sugar free bread now.  He doesn’t know the difference.  Phew!

After we visited for a bit I decided not to remind him of the anniversary date.  It hurt my heart a little bit but I have to remind myself that its ok.  We talked about it the day before but within a matter of ten minutes he completely forgot.  There is no doubt of his love for Mom – nor has there EVER been.  The love was witnessed for 50 years and the love continues in his heart and the deep recesses of his memory.  He still knows who she was and still talks with her every day.  My goal is to talk about her every single time I see Dad so to help him keep her memory alive in his brain.

Dad called me tonight sounding pretty worried and anxious. I can hear it in his voice almost immediately.  He wanted to know if Mom’s brother, my Uncle Bob, knew about Mom’s passing.  My heart dropped to my ankles but remembering the words of Jean Clifford, wonderful wife to my father’s cousin, Dave; “live in HIS reality, not yours”, I calmly said, “yes, Uncle Bob was informed and he even got to speak to Mom two days before she passed and then again about one hour before she passed away”.  This was the fourth time since Mom's passing that he has asked this question.  It’s a phone call that I was witness to because I held the phone to Mom’s ear while her brother told her fond memories of their childhood and told her how much he loved her.  They had resolved any differences between them several months earlier and their love for one another was very strong.  I don’t’ expect Dad to remember that particular instance but I pray every day that I never forget a single moment of those 5 days in hospice. 

Tomorrow I will meet with the neuro-psychologist, Dr Schwartz.  I am nervous about the meeting.  He will tell us that either Dad has mild dementia that’s probably a result of the hydrocephalus or he’ll tell us that Dad does have Alzheimer’s and he’ll name the stage they feel he is in.  I am confident it will be the second option and I THINK I’m ready for it.  What I’m NOT ready for right now are the plans we may well have to put in to place should the doctors’ feel that Dad’s Alzheimer’s requires assisted living, now.  They recognize that Dad is getting, for the most part, assisted living from us but he also recognizes the need for 24-hour professional assistance should anything happen.  

Let’s face it – I’m not going to get an email or a reminder on my iPhone that says, “you are hereby notified that your father’s condition will officially get to the point of no return on such-n-such a date and time”…he will be a fall risk sooner than we want.  He will be a risk for leaving the stove on, or forgetting to lock the door or take his keys with him.  These are things that are difficult for those of us who know him to think he would forget.  Every day for years and years Dad has put his keys on his belt, has double checked the stove and oven before going to bed, and has always locked the door no matter how far away he may wander.  And any day now Dad may very well be on a walk and forget where he is.  Worse, he’ll forget his phone that day and forget that his address is in his front pocket to show someone for help.  Perhaps it is time for me to wake up and maybe tomorrow will be my huge wake-up call.  Am I in denial?  Perhaps – and probably to an extent.  Dad is still his charming, funny, witty, loving self but every time we are together there are very obvious, stark reminders that things upstairs are not processing the way they should be. 

Dad loves to talk about his younger days.  He remembers those really well.  I think my dad was and still is a very handsome man and I'm so very proud that he is my father.

Dad and I talked about a nursing home and he says he totally trusts me and that if I feel it is the right thing to do, he says he will honor my decision.  I love my father and he loves me. 

So on this eve of breaking news (and here’s hoping it’s ‘nothing big’), I find myself thinking about the future and what else I need to sacrifice in order to provide my father with the same level of care, safety and security he provided for Mom and all of us kids for over 50 years (ok, for me, only 45 years!).  He deserves the best in the autumn and winter of his years. 

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