I'm losing my Daddy, bit by bit.
He's 88 and I'm not ready for him to be gone yet.
When I think about it, I realize that I've been losing him, little by little for the past several years.
Losing Mother was hard, but it was so sudden that we just had to deal with it. This is so different.
It started when he quickly lost his eyesight to macular degeneration. He didn't adapt well to not being able to see normally, and losing his ability to be totally independent and the caretaker of the family hit him hard. He never did sell his car until Mother died. I think there was just something about still owning a car that made things seem a little better. Even if he couldn't drive it, it was still his car.
When he couldn't see them, he stopped feeding the birds, saying it was too hard to figure out the feeders without being able to see them. He had to stop tending his roses, because it was just a little dangerous to be using sharp clippers in big bushes with thorns. He tried to help with weeding and such, but it was hard--he had to doublecheck that everything he was about to pull wasn't something that should be there.
We got him a talking book reader and that seemed to help distract from the fact he couldn't see to read. We've always been a family of readers--the newspaper, books, magazines. I come by my love of books very naturally.
A couple years ago, Mother started complaining that he was failing....and that we (the kids) just didn't understand how hard it was. But she never really gave any specifics. She just said "He doesn't talk much", "he just sits in his chair". We knew he was bored, but couldn't get past the "I can't see" to pick up a new hobby.
Last fall, when Mother became ill, and it became pretty clear they couldn't live by themselves, at least for the short term, they moved over to Sumner and stayed with my niece (their granddaughter) Kelli, and her family. Dad seemed a little distant, and was occasionally confused as to where he was physically, and had some problems with identifying people, especially if there was a crowd around (which is common with our family), but for the most part seemed okay. He went out walking every day with his great-grandson, played with the baby, listened to his stories on his tape player, and told us that he really wanted to go home.
In March, they moved back to Walla Walla, and 11 days later, Mother had a massive heart attack and died instantly. We all expected Dad to crumble, but he did great. He stayed a little confused, and had a really hard time with the concept of what happened to Mom's body (cremation), but he was clear that he couldn't live by himself, that he wanted to come over to the Coast and be closer to us, and seemed to be getting clearer and clearer. The doctor told us that oftentimes, when there's a strong spouse (and I don't know anyone who wouldn't describe my mother that way), the quieter spouse just stops thinking and talking, and especially after 68 years, just lets the other person do all the work. With Mother gone, he had to step up and take charge.
He moved into his assisted living facility, and seemed to be doing okay. He was making some new friends, telling us he was bored, but getting used to it. Then he had what the doctor called a TIA--a brain attack--where little blood vessels simply give way. It's kind of like a mini-stroke. He got really confused, a little paranoid, but slowly came out of it after a day or so. Never back to his highest level, but mostly back.
Then, apparently, he had another series of TIAs...and he hasn't bounced back from these. He's forgotten how to work his book reader. The TV Remote confuses him. He's in this strange place somewhere between the past and the present. Sometimes he's perfectly oriented--we were talking baseball the other night, and he was right there--other times he's not--he was convinced that I'd brought him to the hospital in a two horse hack. I laughed, and told him that I'd never driven a two horse hack in my life, and he said "I know. That's why I was trying to teach you!".
He's always recognized me when I come in, and he always recognizes John. He occasionally proclaims us married, but that's close enough for government work. I'm really dreading the first time that he doesn't know who I am.
So right now, after getting lost in his assisted living facility, and ending up in the adjoining nursing home (I think he just took a wrong turn, and figured he could find his way back), he's in the hospital for 10-14 days of examination and treatment, to ascertain if there's anything that can be done to help his memory and confusion. It's not looking really great. The social worker seems to be steering us down the path that he'll need to be in a more tightly structured facility--that by not having daily, repeated structure, he's kind of folding in on himself--and the assisted living facility he's currently at isn't staffed or designed to provide that kind of structure and activity.
I think we can explain it to him in terms of it's a better place to live with more things to do, but he still may be upset at having to move again. And I'm not looking forward to searching out a facility--they tend to be a little depressing.
It's so hard. Sometimes, instead of my Dad, I see this confused old man. But there's almost always a glimmer of my Daddy in there, and I'm just not ready to lose that.
I think I'll go cook now. That's how the Kelly women deal with sadness. When Mom died, everyone kept telling me "sit down, you don't need to be cooking." But it helps, somehow. (it's a pity i don't clean when I'm sad, though, I could probably get this house ship-shape. oh well!)