In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world!
A few months ago Todd purchased a roundtrip ticket from Philly to Durango so I could come visit my parents, sister and brother-in-law in Farmington, New Mexico. My other sister decided to drive out from Fort Worth so we could all hang out together. What was supposed to originally be a pleasant family visit turned into something else. A few nights before I was to fly in, my father fell in the parking lot outside my folks’ apartment, knocking himself out and requiring an ambulance ride to the hospital. Apparently this 85-year-old man is made of steel because he only required three staples in his head. No broken bones, no cracked skull… just a few scabs and an insanely large bruise from the top of his left hip down to nearly his knee.
The problem is that Dad has lost a lot of mobility over the last several years and, while he was doing really well before the fall, this accident set him back quite a ways. Another problem is that he has moderate dementia. Sometimes he’s lucid, sometimes he’s not and then other times he hallucinates. It might be Alzheimers or it might just be regular, plain old dementia. Alzheimers is very difficult to diagnose without an autopsy but the symptoms are very similar. So I say dementia/alzheimers – tomato/tomahto.
A third problem is that my mother, though a sharp and spry 79-year-old, is also only 4’8″ (I won’t mention the inch she says she’s lost as she’s gotten older). Caring for him 24/7 has taken its toll physically, mentally and emotionally and she just can’t do it anymore. At least not without some respite.
Some would call it luck, others coincidence, but my sisters and I know without a shadow of a doubt that Terri and I weren’t scheduled to be here at this exact time by happenstance. We’ve been able to help my mother with the physical aspect of caring for my father and, together with my local sister, Michele, have been able to get some practicalities taken care of. We’ve seen an attorney about how best to protect Mom’s assets and met with Dad’s doctor about what he needs at the moment.
Dr. Burns would have liked him to go to a rehabilitation facility, but that would have required a three night stay in the hospital before Medicare would pay for it. Unfortunately (or so we thought) the hospital only kept him for one night and we didn’t know the 3 midnights rule at that time.
But God, in his infinite wisdom, had this all figured out. Tuesday a hospital bed was delivered to Gary and Michele’s house and yesterday we moved Dad in. I’m not entirely sure when it’s going to start, but Dr. Burns prescribed physical therapy and a few other skilled nursing services and Dad will receive these services at my sister’s house.
He’s already doing much better physically than he was even a week ago and our hope is that, at a minimum, he will get back to the same level of mobility he was at before the fall.
This move and therapy and whatnot is what I think of as Phase I in Dad’s care. What Phase II is we don’t quite know yet. It will depend on how well he does with therapy and how quickly or slowly his dementia progresses and, well, a whole host of factors. Not to get all Scarlet on you, but I’ll think about that tomorrow.
I can’t write about this without bragging on my friends for a moment. I’ve had close to a bajillion people praying for my family the past week. Or maybe only a bunch. I’m not too good at math. Anyway, I have felt the power of those prayers on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.
When Todd and I went through the Great Cancer Debacle of ’05, God provided this precious pearl of wisdom: Pray for joy and laughter. Regardless of your circumstance, pray for joy and laughter. So at some point while requesting prayers I prayed for wisdom and courage, but also for joy and laughter. God has provided in abundance.
Please understand this has been an emotional week full of tears and anxieties and anger and unacceptance and, well, you get the idea. BUT it has also been a week full of happy reminiscences, delight in being together, pride in our ability to do what we need to do and, my absolute favorite of all, laughter.
Let me just give you a small idea of what’s gone on around here. For those of you who know my dad you’ll easily see Earl in these examples.
Terri, Mom and myself were watching a program on bullying. My father said something to my mom and she said, “It’s a show on bullying.” I was sitting in front of him and he said:
“I’m being bullied by a bunch of girls.”
I got up with the intention of: 1- going to the bathroom; 2- eating breakfast; and 3- brushing my teeth. Instead I went to the bathroom and then brushed my teeth. It wasn’t until I walked out of the bathroom that I remembered my original plan. I looked at my dad, smacked my head and said, “I’m losing my mind, Daddy!” He said, “Join the club.”
Mom and Dad were watching the Gaithers and Sue Dodge was on. My parents kind of know her and Dad was trying to tell Terri and me that her husband was “that Baptist pastor.” But what came out was “that bastard pastor.” Extreme hilarity ensued.
Mom: Do you want vanilla ice cream?
Dad: Yes. And I would like butterscotch on it.
Mom: We only have chocolate syrup.
Dad: Well what I really want is chocolate on my ice cream.
After helping Mom give Dad a shower, getting him dressed and then out to his chair, he fell into it with a big sigh. I asked how he was.
Dad: I’m turd. Tired!
Me: Did you say you’re a turd?
Dad: (smiling) You noticed how fast I changed that.
Mom: (to Dad) You can go pee and then we’ll get your jammies on and after that you can go to bed and sleep alllllll night.
Dad: (dryly) Optimist.
Mom: (to Dad) Relax.
Me & Terri: Relax! Don’t do it!…
Mom: (to Dad) Your girls are silly.
Dad: My girls were good girls while they lived at home.