One of the things that is deep inside my thoughts all the time - not on the surface - is my father. He is 91 and over the last 5 years he has had some mini strokes that occurred during other illnesses. In addition to this, he has Type II diabetes, macular degeneration in one eye that makes it blind, and neuropathy. He can barely shuffle along with his walker and my mother, 82 years old, still cares for him 100% every day. He is incontinent and must wear a diaper. My mother dresses him, bathes him, changes him, feeds him, takes him out for breakfast, takes him to the doctor, supervises all his medications - everything. As long as my father can stand on his own, she can care for him - he has to be able to move around on his own. She bullies him a bit when he gets lazy - she won't let him fail completely. She is amazing. One of the big drawbacks to this whole situation is that they live over 2 hours away from me and traveling up there in the summer means driving through dangerous thunderstorms anywhere along the way.
So here it is Father's Day, and, to be honest, there is very little of my father left. When I visit, he sleeps most of the time in his recliner. If you ask him questions, he answers, but does not continue any conversation. He still loves to go to breakfast and when we do drive up to visit, we often leave early enough in the morning to meet them at the local restaurant for breakfast. He still laughs at jokes and silliness, but it is rare. He just doesn't seem much to be "there". It's as if he's crawled into himself and he won't let anyone else in. I can't talk with him about my faith, I can't ask him anything that requires more than a "yes" or "no" answer because I won't get one in that case. He seems drugged - and perhaps with his medications, he is. Or perhaps his thinking is just clouded all the time. He is coherent, though. He knows he is disabled and he laments that fact.
I remember him mowing our huge lawn in upstate, NY. It had a nice hill on it, one that was good in winter for sliding down. He used to whip over that lawn in no time - front and back - and come in and want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with milk.
I'm a bit baffled as to how he got Type II diabetes. This is a man that got up every morning all the years I was growing up - at 5am - and the first thing he did was exercises on the floor of our living room. I could hear his grunts from my bedroom. Then he would prepare breakfast for the family.
This is a man that played golf and walked every day in addition to that - he biked, too. All of this was AFTER he was retired and moved to Florida.
My dad smoked before I was born (and quit before then, too) and he was a bit overweight until I was about 9 years old. As a matter of fact, I remember him making FABULOUS deep dish apple pies. When I was 9, he discovered Weight Watchers and bought their cookbook. For the next 10 years I enjoyed sharing his "pizzas" with cheddar cheese, homemade marinara sauce made to the Weight Watcher recipe and a sprinkle of oregano. These were made on regular bread in a toaster over - I loved them. You could have 2 of them for lunch - and sometimes he put salmon on top of the whole thing. It really did taste good. I also remember him making his own salad dressing. We liked that, too. My dad lost whatever weight he needed to and stayed in shape for the rest of his life. He rarely indulged in sweets - but when he did, he went big. He LOVED ice cream and could eat almost a whole 1/2 gallon at one sitting. Even so, he exercised every day and ate lots of vegetables (although my mom says he really doesn't like them) and made sure he didn't gain weight. So how did he still come down with Type II diabetes?
Once he got the diabetes, he still lived the same way - perhaps that's why it got worse. He still ate ice cream once in a while. He was able to drive until about 5 years ago and he would go into town and get himself a treat, which my mom disapproved of.
My father decided about 6 or 7 years ago to get a second knee replacement. He thought his golf game was suffering because of a bad knee, which pained him. But the operation never worked the way he wanted. The knee was never the same and it didn't help at all. Then, he got an infection in the knee that went into his blood - and that is what almost killed him. They had to re-open up the knee and clean it out. So, perhaps it wasn't the diabetes that "got" him, it was the knee surgery he should have foregone. It doesn't make any difference now.
So - the bottom line here is that I dream of the father I remember all the time. Sometimes I dream about him in the state he's in now and I'm trying to take care of him in my dream. Often, at some point in these dreams, I'm crying and crying and wake up exhausted. I know the situation with my elderly mother (who is still in fantastic shape) taking care of my almost helpless father can't go on too much longer. I've asked my mother to install one of those systems where you can press a button and call for help - you can even wear the apparatus as a necklace or bracelet so that it's on you all the time. She hasn't done this yet, but I'm going to keep bugging her. I can't do as much as I'd like to do for them since they are too far away for the kind of daily interaction I wish for. In my heart I believe it's all over but the waiting. Nothing much else to do but take one day at a time and pray for him to remain painless and my mother to keep her health.
This situation is a huge mental burden. I know that it could be far worse and he could be in pain and actively suffering. Yet, I don't want him to get so debilitated that he has to be in a nursing home. That - to me - is death while alive. He's been in one a couple of times for rehab - and visiting him there was more depressing than I can relate. I know anyone who has been to a nursing home knows what I'm talking about. The natural thought process - for me, anyway - is to put myself in those people's "shoes" at some point in my future - and I would rather that not happen, of course.
When my father's father was old, my dad put him in a nursing home. My grandmother died relatively young - at age 64 from a heart attack - she had a heart damaged by Rheumatic fever as a child. So there was no one to take care of my grandfather - and he and my father were not close. My dad would let me take the day off school to travel the 2 1/2 hours north to see grandpa - so he would not have to be alone, so he would have company. We would pick grandpa up and take him out to eat - he was still living alone in their old house in Saratoga Springs at that time - it was after I moved to Florida that he was put in a nursing home. My dad felt the same way I do - and now he is in that situation to a certain degree - living after he really wants to, after his body has betrayed him. It is so very sad. Life seems so very sad to me these days - so I'm sharing my blues with any poor reader who happens by and stays long enough to read this dirge.
I know everyone loses their parents at some point - it is the nature of life in a fallen world. My turn will come someday, barring the Rapture occurring. I think my father would have been SO much better mentally if he had had the benefit of a strong faith. I look forward to leaving this earth - I'm not eager to die - far from it.....but I know heaven - being with the Lord - will be wonderful....I just hope ALL my loved ones are there to share it with me.