Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Dad's Life -

One thing I made sure was working properly on my last visit out was Dad's chair that lifts him up to the standing position, then, he can lean into it and gently have it sit him back down (and I have to say the DeBeers Diamond  "three months salary" marketing staff have nothing on the folks that sell furniture for older folks).

He loves it, one more thing to help him stay in his home. He recovered from his stroke a few years back better than anyone thought, but he now has a hard time standing and sitting without a little help.  Every morning, he gets up and gets settled in it and reads the daily message from "Our Daily Bread" and then the Bible.  That's something he's done every day since retirement after his morning work out (Dad was a Golden Glove Boxer and still has a very strict exercise regiment that included swimming and Nautilus at the Y with my Step Mom well into their 80's).  Then it's time to get dressed and get about enjoying the day. At 98, he's had some setbacks, and been hospitalized a couple times for infections, but he seems to bounce back pretty well.

But we had one scare, he woke in the middle of the night after dreaming of a home break-in (the house was secure) and called 911.  He then couldn't get out of bed due to a sudden dizzy spell and police broke the door down. They found him having a medical issue and got him an ambulance to the hospital. Bless them for their response and handling of him, as it was really scary for him.  He now has 24-hour care, still refusing to live with family who'd love to have him.

My favorite photo of Dad, taken when he was 92.

Actually, I checked the chair out when he was sleeping in one day, it's quite comfortable and seems to be built better than some of theexpensive yuppie furniture that I used to own.

But dang, I was hoping for an auto-launch feature that would get me airborne. 

Initiate Launch Sequence!  (that's it??)

The family room, where the chair is housed, has barely changed since I was in sixth grade.  My parents built it onto the house over what was most of our huge cement patio.  We took a vote as a family one year when I was in grade school. Vacation to Hawaii with the kids (the parents had already gone on their 25th anniversary alone) or add on a family room?  The kids decided it.  Family room!  We can play!  We can make noise.  We can spill stuff!  We can take the TV set completely apart with tools while they're at the grocery store (oh, dang, busted)

It has the previous living room carpeting down over the original harvest gold linoleum now and the drapes have been updated.  But much is unchanged. The 1970's fixtures for the fluorescent lights that Dad crafted by hand. Still there. That Mexican hat on the Wall?  A VERY embarrassing River dance gone South episode from some tap recital of mine.  The barre built into the wall where I did my ballet warm-ups was removed and replaced with paneling.  It was there under the kitchen window that Mom once took out with a golf ball from the backyard when that was the back window to the house. Fore! (hey, I didn't know Mom knew that other word!)

On the walls are funny tin signs and Montana art.  On another wall are numerous awards and mementos from the community and  Uncle Sam, every single member of our family - Mom, Dad, brothers, sister, serving in Defense, Local or Federal Law Enforcement or the Armed Forces, with the Air Force and Navy battling it out for the best space. And the picture of Jesus, which has witnessed slumber parties, ping pong games (we'd set the table up inside in the winter) Loony Tunes, and probably cursing during that 1983 Minnesota-Nebraska college game.

The couch is new, but the quilt is one my Mom crocheted in the 70's.  There is another one, but it sits in my linen closet at the Range, where I can occasionally hold it, smell the scent of Chanel No. 5 that only exists in my memory.  It's where I can remember her hands working away on it while we kids watched westerns on TV and tried to outshoot Marshall Dillon with our little cap guns under the watchful eye of our Lord.
We've made just a few changes in the house.  The main bathroom, tub and shower were outfitted with handles and bars and a shower chair for ease of bathing. The waterbed was replaced with a quality regular mattress that makes it easier for him to get out of bed, but with a heated mattress pad so it's warm through the night.

The small bath by the family room, though, was in dire need of help.  It was always the "utility" bathroom, old faded paint, bare window, no storage at all, and small and hard to get around in as there was nothing for him to hold onto if his balance or strength waned.  But it's the one he uses the most.

Before he died, Big Bro took care of the construction and I took care of the  paint and the decorating.
Still, with a full-time home health aide I arrange and lawn service that comes weekly I am happy he can stay in his home. He originally said he wanted to move in with me when my Step Mom was diagnosed with cancer and I bought an old money pit of a big house on some property with a view of a small lake, a single story, no steps, "mother in law set up" outside of town, the original "Range." I hoped he'd be happy there. But she went into remission, with great thanksgiving, but was then diagnosed with Alzhemers.

He cared for her in his home through that, until her death, years more than we expected, but not easy years for him.  But as she was his cross, she was also his salvation and he refused to put her in a nursing home, even when she acted out in anger against her children, not recognizing her own life, but somehow, always recognizing him.

But after she was gone, he changed his mind. His Mom was from Indy, and he enjoyed it there, but he didn't want to leave where he's lived all these years.  He wanted to stay where his memories are, good or bad, in his own church, in that old house.  I  understood and sold the place I had bought, at a loss, but one I gladly bore.

This is the home in which his memories reside, in every furnishing that's 30, 40, 60 years old.  There have been other houses, for summer vacations and the old family home in Montana, but this modest little place was always the center of the family.  Outside, is the bed of my Mom's rose garden, replanted with other flowers now, yet still containing for him, those pink and red and coral buds and blossoms, long after they've fallen to dust, no more dead to him than the hands that tended them, the drops of blood they sometimes drew.
In that family room, he sits in his recliner and watches his favorite sports, while around him are the artifacts of loves never lost,  triumphs and defeats, as well as the living laughter of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Not one of them are related to him by blood, but by the strongest bond - family.

My room at home is virtually unchanged and that was not by my request, but his will. Photos of family and family and extended family all around.  The rainbow I painted on my walls in junior high. Dad said I could, but I had to use leftover paint which is why my rainbow is every shade of totally tacky 1970's paint we had.  (yes, we had rooms painted those colors!)
There is no view. There used to be a view of beautiful mountains, but they are hidden from where we sit by tall, big box marts. He refused to sell when they literally bought up several blocks, RE-zoned residential and commercial, so we look out the windows to the vast walls of a commercial business, their parking lot lights illuminating the place like Attica Prison during a break. Curtains keep the light out at night, sort of.  Dad realizes the value of the home just went to zip, but he doesn't care. It's his home,  it's our home.  It's where we lived, and it's where he will pass, hopefully and quietly in his favorite chair, his Bible open and a can of cold beer waiting for when the game is called.

He knows his days are short, we all do. But he's very happy, lousy view and all. The pastor comes and gives him communion regularly.  His neighbor's have him over for meals and their children come and play board and card games with him.   I fly out as often as I can, becoming an expert on the cheap air fares (how many stops?)  My step brother and his wife drive three hours to take him to lunch. My cousin Liz drives up from California several times a year (her partner's family live an hour from Dad).  Liz and I oversee his bills and such, removing that responsibility after he sent thousands to shyters that prey on the elderly.

But he's happy. He has friends, good ones, but new ones, as all of his original group has passed on. He still works out each day, including an exercise bike and he eats very well with a hot meal daily from the sweet ladies that are his home health aides and the snacks and small meals I leave for him in little freezer containers between visits.
Around the house are small sayings, quotes that mean things to him, verses from the Bible.  "This is the Day the Lord hath Made, Let us Rejoice and Be Glad in It" is one that always makes me think of him. Each day is a gift from the Lord, he says, and I can't disagree.

I can't say what the future will bring, but one thing my brother and I both agreed on before he left us. Dad has outlived two beloved wives and two children (he and Mom lost a baby when they were first married) and I'm going to fight to make sure he does not experience any more loss of what he holds dear.

- Brigid

7 comments:

  1. Damn....sure is dusty in here.....

    God Bless him, Brigid.

    And God Bless you for being such a good daughter.

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  2. You are an excellent daughter; may God continue to richly bless you for all that you do.

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  3. There are many ghosts - and memories that live in that house.

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  4. Dang, got dusty in here, ..must be allergies...the season is full of it.

    If there was a pic of a "dutiful Daughter" in the dictionary, it would be you. That posting was written well.

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  5. You make me cry more than anyone else I read.....High praise, believe me. God bless you for respecting your farther's wishes!

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  6. Onions, is someone chopping onions??

    Big hugs to you and your Dad. You're an awesome daughter.

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  7. Thank you. I've got about enough saved to do the 24 care another six months. At that point it's reverse mortgage, but I don't care to inherit, I care that Dad is happy.

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