Friday, February 23, 2007

Missing Dad


During my drive to work this morning, I saw the sun rise and remembered that I dreamed of my Dad. Perhaps he was in my dreams because I’m planning to drive up to Maryland to see him in the next few weeks since the mid-Atlantic weather has calmed down. I haven’t seen him in a few months and I want and need to go soon. He won’t know me as his daughter but I’ll enjoy hearing him laugh with me.

Nearly twelve years ago, my Dad had a major stroke that paralyzed his left side and he’s been in a wheelchair since then. He lost his wife of nearly fifty-four years last May and sadly, he doesn’t remember her. He didn’t even remember her on the day she died, after her two-month stay in the hospital. Maybe it’s good for him that he doesn’t grieve for her…

Tonight I looked back on posts I have written about him and the two most recent ones are here and here. The first one breaks my heart and the other one makes me laugh out loud.

My brother lives near the nursing home and keeps me informed of Dad’s days there. He stops by to see him quite often and other than his progressing dementia, he’s doing well without any major health issues. Whenever my brother drops in to see him, he’s never in his bed but is out and about in his wheelchair, either enjoying the view or participating in the activities. I picture him sitting with a group of patients, telling lies on top of lies and believing every other lie he hears. He enjoys music and I know he has belted out a few tunes with the piano player!

He is 81 years old and I hear he wants to eat ice cream with his fingers but is working on trying to remember to reach for the spoon. What makes me happy is that he still craves a treat!

I’m giggling as I write this and picturing him exhibiting one of his most outstanding traits as a younger man. He never met a stranger. My Dad was a social man who thrived on interaction with people. That’s why after he retired from the Baltimore City Fire Department he gained employment at BWI, driving the airport bus and taxi. On the day before his stroke he delivered meals by “Meals on Wheels”. He participated in every church activity that needed him, and, ironically, his stroke made him fall on the Church altar while he was lighting candles for the 5:30 a.m. Mass.


This photo was taken last April while my Mom was in the hospital. I cared for him for a few days and we got along wonderfully even though, at times, he knew me as his sister Patsy. He wanted to watch the History Channel before bedtime that night but I encouraged him break away from his same old routine and watch American Idol with me. He loved it! That’s “Ditty Kitty” - his constant companion.

What I saw today:


White Throated Sparrow, off the ground. Peek-a-Boo!


Are you a King? Or are you having a bad hair day...

A surprise on the way home from work. Trees with color! Pink! Must have happened overnight!


Anonymous said...

I hope you enjoy visiting your Dad when you do go. It's nice he has a kitty to keep him company.
That cardinal is definitely having a bad hair day.
Ohhhh, and pink trees - thank you Mary!! Spring is really going to make it this year.

Susan Gets Native said...

Have a nice time with your Dad.

How do you get these bird pictures? That cardinal is off the hook!

Thanks for the pink. We need it.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

God bless you Mary and have a good visit with your Dad. The nursing home picture looks nice and homey. Is that a "Don King" cardinal? LOL!
I can't believe you have blossoming trees! Minnesota is under a big winter storm warning and the wind is howling tonight.

LauraHinNJ said...

Oh Mary - hugs. Hope you have a nice visit.

I'm just thinking out loud here; forgive me (please!) if my ideas are offensive - I don't have any real experience with dementia. My dad had colon cancer; his greatest challenge was kidney failure from something unknown (maybe uncontrolled high blood pressure - who knows). Anyway - he went to dialysis 3 times a week and he became easily dehydrated and that caused a very scary sort of temporary dementia with hallucinations and such. The Food Channel was often involved in his hallucinations (I know there's a joke there somewhere!)

I still can't stand to watch that station.

I never knew how to handle these episodes. It felt cruel to tell him he was confused, but also cruel to go along with his kooky ideas, you know?

In the seven months or so he lived here and we learned about dialysis and hospice nurses and laxatives and morphine and all the other unpleasant aspects of dying, I learned to take my cue from him and where he was at at any particular moment. I tried to keep it about him, rather than me and my feelings.

It sounds as if your dad is happy and enjoying himself, right? Who cares how he eats his ice-cream; like you said, so long as he enjoys it.

In some ways I think the forgetting and being unaware might be a blessing for the person. Horrible for the family, but I'd like to think that the person is unburdened by worry and able to enjoy life without any concern for tomorrow. Don't you see some blessing for your dad in that?

We never talked about it, but I think my dad thought all the time about the things that were wrong with him and how his life (and mine) had changed overnight when he found out that he had cancer. He put on a happy face for us, but there was a price for him, on a very emotional and spiritual level, to pay for making us believe that he was *ok* with the cards he'd been dealt. He was more concerned with us than with himself.

Sorry, I'm rambling here. I probably should have sent this as an email.

Mary said...


My Dad is not the case that your Dad faced. My Mom faced a case similar to your Dad. I'll send you an e-mail this weekend and it might be lengthy. To sum up my comment to you, I've travelled your path. I understand. Feel free to ramble - I'm all ears.

LauraHinNJ said...

Do send an email, Mary! I could benefit from what you're willing to share.

I know it's not the same. I didn't mean to draw connections where they don't exist.

I was just trying (in my clumsy way) to help you think of the changes for him in a positive way.

Sorry that I was off-base.

Mary said...

Laura, you are never off-base. I appreciate your comments and they are true - I understand them and you are *not* clumsy! LOL! I'll share my Mom's story with you, similar to your Dad's story. E-mail this weekend sometime. They had a more difficult ride than my Dad has...

LauraHinNJ said...

Phew! Thought for sure that I had made you angry, Mary.

I'll quit hogging your blog and go to bed now.


Anonymous said...

I lost my father a few years ago because of heart problems!

Also, loved the White-throated Sparrow pictures!

dmmgmfm said...

It's not an easy path, but one that we willingly take. Our parents took care of us and now it's our turn. My dad gets quite confused and once in awhile seems to be living in an alternate reality. I try to keep him grounded, without making him feel like he's totally lost it. It's a delicate balancing act sometimes, but there are some moments that are so precious and funny that it evens out the slightly scary times. At least in my case.

Anonymous said...

Mary and Laura,
As Mary knows I lost my mom to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease as few years ago. I was her primary care giver here in my home and it was a hard road to hoe as they say but one I feel helped me grow immensely as a human being. Laura I can so relate to what you say about those periods of dementia as we had those more than the lucid ones. I remember a trip to John's Hopkins where a specialist said that he was sorry to report that Mom also had Alzheimer's with the Parkinson. I looked at him and told him that I felt that that was God's gift because then my poor dear Mother could not remember all that she was losing to those awful diseases. I would sing to my mom some days and she always told me that her daughter had a lovely voice also, not knowing it was her daughter singing to her. Bitter sweet compliments were truly one of the many gifts that she gave me during those seven years. How much I miss her, Mary enjoy your visit with your Dad and soak up his laughter. Those moments are very precious.

sonia a. mascaro said...

Mary, I hope you have a lovely time with your Dad. So nice that the nursing home allows him to have a pet! Pets are a nice company.

So beautiful photos as always!

Mary said...

Thanks, all, for your wishes. The photo of my Dad was taken in his in-law apartment, attached to my brother's house. I was caring for him for a few days while my Mom was in the hospital last spring.

The nursing home does now allow pets so my brother has Ditty. Sad to say, she has been grieving since my Mom passed away and my Dad entered the nursing home. She's an old cat and is losing weight. I hope she adjusts to her new surroundings.

Anonymous said...

I wish you a good visit, Mary. Thank goodness he is happy most of the time.
Love that cardinal! You catch some unique shots.

Jayne said...

Enjoy the time with your dad Mary... I love that you can write about the unexpected humor in it all.

Funny, funny ummm... tufted cardinal?

Pink blooms! Come on spring!!!!

Cuppa said...

Heart hugs being sent your way today.

Thanks for the touch of pink and the hope of spring is speaks of.