Tag Archives: children and care of aging parents

My daddy’s holiday

My mother likes to explain that, when her brood was young (long before Monday holidays rearranged our calendars), many of us thought that Washington’s birthday was a holiday only because is was my father’s birthday–and therefore a holiday just for him. If it were up to me, we’d still be celebrating my father’s birthday every year as a national holiday. As a matter of fact, we’d celebrate in grand style. There would be pageantry: dancing girls and horses with plumes, in the way  he once requested. He’d get quite a kick out of it, I know. Particularly those dancing girls.

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The road ahead

We’re in the homestretch of moving my mother to a new assisted living apartment.  It has taken six weeks, sheaves of paperwork, many friends and angels, on-site contributions from five siblings and the distant emotional support of four other brothers and sisters. For their part, my parents have presented an iron will throughout it all,  a strength that continues to bind them despite their physical separation.

Our goal is in site. Tomorrow, my mother will once  again reside within the same walls of my father’s rehab and long-term care facility, as closely reunited as possible, if not in the same bed. Perhaps time will draw them closer; perhaps not. Their journey will not end with this move. It is a new beginning, yet another adventure. Throughout their years together, my parents have traveled extensively by car, by van, in a trailer, by boat. I think now of the bright yellow hazard signs posted on mountain highways we once wandered: “Beware of falling rocks.” Who knows what lies ahead.

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A new dawn

The silent stroke that robbed my father of his ability to walk has also forced my parents into separate beds in distant towns. My father’s memory loss means he does not always remember the “why” of it all.  I fear for him in this new time and place; it twists my belly into knots.  What must it be like to not know exactly where you live and why you are there? I want him to feel grounded not abandoned and to assure that he feels only comfort and peace. We speak about this new reality, over and over. And then again. There is frustration; there are tears. And still, there are moments of tenderness and love.

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Finding life among the clouds

I always hold my breath, if only for a moment, as I take the corner from the hallway into my father’s room in rehab. Will he be up? Will he be dressed? Will I find him tired or talkative? And then there is always the fear that, one day, when he sees me, he might not remember me–though, thankfully, this is a groundless fear to date.

This day he is stretched out on his bed, fully dressed, his arms back, his fingers laced behind his head. It reminds me of how we laid on the ground as children, watching clouds float above, imaging angels and demons and any number of exotic beasts in their passing shapes.

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The road home

He will tell you he is content. He has no pain. He is happy–as long as my mother is by his side. He has no wants, has a roof over his head. And yet, he is still curious and ready for adventure. He has lost much of his memory but his mind still works.

“Where do they all live?” My father often requests an update on his nine children. And yes, he is quite sure he had nine, though he’ll correctly state, “I didn’t have them; your mother did.”

So, I listed the current residences for him. From Oregon to Alabama to New Mexico then Atlanta, upstate New York and western Massachusetts and lastly, his two youngest near him, still, on Cape Cod.

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