Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I LOVE how this portrait of Dad and the boys, E. (left) and I. turned out. I'm sure a print of it will soon be atop Dad's dresser.
We went over to Plano Tuesday afternoon to visit Dad. I've been horrible in keeping this blog up to date with "family items" over the past five months, so I guess I've been remiss in updating what's been happening with Dad since then.
Soon after his visit in October to our place, Dad had a bad weekend in which he was disoriented and hallucinating about visitors in his home. My sister R. and I took him to visit his doctor, and her diagnosis, while expected, was uncomfortable nonetheless: Dad's Alzheimer's--dementia--was getting worse, and we should really think about moving him out of his house.
Dad had never given us too much cause to worry about his ability to take care of himself. We trusted his judgement and ability in driving around town to take care of his errands and not getting lost or scaring the hell out of anyone on the road. But over the breadth of 2008, he was "getting behind" in keeping up with things. His house--always immaculate--was becoming a mess. His kitchen table was piling up with mail--junk mail and bills--which needed to be taken care of. His taxes and business dealings were falling into disarray, and he was becoming more and more forgetful and at times irrational in his actions and assumptions about others. It's what's to be expected for most men of 83 years of age.
Dad has been alone for the past ten years since mom died. . .he relied on her for everything, for his meals to his laundry, and their marriage lasted nearly fifty years. I know he suffered terribly without her, but he was never one to show it--or at least he tried his best not to. But I know he's been lost.
Me and dad--a rare time when I get my photo made. Good one, M.!
Dad's life, I hate to say it, was pretty much wrapped up in his work. It took him out of town three weeks a month in most cases, and home on weekends, during which he'd catch up on what he'd missed while on the road: the yardwork, paying bills, repairing what needed to be repaired, packing for the next trip. I don't really recall any deep friendships he'd developed (that was Mom's responsibility, I guess), and while he tried to build a bridge with me in common interests--railroads and photography, mainly--I can't really say were were exceptionally close. The times we just went out to "do stuff" together were pretty few and far between. Same with my sisters; I'm sure they wish they'd had a deeper relationship with him as well.
It's one of the curses in the life of an elderly man when they foil the actuarial tables and outlive their wives. Often, they're left with no real close friendships once they retire, and their reason for living--work--and their deepest relationship--their wife--are both gone. While living alone in a nice, big house, much of dad's days were taken up with drinking coffee on the porch, watching CNBC and seeing how the stock market was doing, and shuffling and reshuffling the papers that covered his desk in a back bedroom office.
We moved dad to an assisted living place specializing in Alzheimer's care not too far from sister R.'s home last November. The first few weeks were a struggle for all of us. Dad clearly didn't want to be there--he wanted to be home. He missed the freedom to just get in his car and drive off to Burger King for lunch. He missed his stuff. And he damn well didn't like being in a place "waiting to die" surrounded by a bunch of "old people." R. and her husband rented a truck and some movers and decorated his new apartment with familiar furniture and photographs.
Gradually, he's adapted. He's made some friends in his new home (more in four months than he had in the previous eight years), and while he occasionally plots ways to get out, move back to his old home and buy a new convertable sports car, I think he's realized that he doesn't have too bad a situation. The worst part, apart from having to extend himself and be social and engaged with the rest of the population, has been the women. "They're all just a bunch of old broads," he'd say. "And they're horny, to boot!" He's living in the world of the Beach Boys: Two girls for every boy.
He's looked after in his new place. Nurses check on him daily, make sure he takes the medicine he needs, and he's well fed (though I'm sure he craves a big greasy cheeseburger now and then, something I'm always happy to come over and treat him to). He has good days and bad days, but the staff there is used to dealing with it. I wish I could visit him with the kids more often, but my work schedule and the kids' school precludes that.
On the first free day we had of the kids' spring break, we headed over. We had a great time, though dad's stories tended once more to not make a lot of sense, but the kids were happy to see him, and he, of course, was delighted that the little ones were there.
Dad and a couple of his "girlfriends."