My dad, 86 years old, has been through some rough patches for about the last ten years. He took care of my mom when she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. The strain probably caused him a (minor) stroke in 2003. He really didn’t let anyone know her condition, although it was evident something was wrong. Becky figured out what was happening and went with them to the neurologist who made the diagnosis. When my mom talked to me about it, she said, “I feel sorry for myself, but I feel even sorrier for all of you.” I was driving shortly after I got the news and Josh Groban’s “You’re Still You” came on the radio. I had to pull over to the side of the road. A family friend sang the song at her funeral and I still cannot listen to it today.
She kept falling and finally in about 2004 she was taken to the emergency room (it was on their anniversary date, February 15) and had to be placed in the old Annaberg Manor where she remained for several months. My dad visited her every day and stayed with her all day except for his own doctor appointments. I was retired by this time and would go over and sit with her when he had to be away.
He was determined to take her home and take care of her. She became well enough to leave Annaberg although she could not walk without assistance. They had sold the farm they lived a few years before but were allowed to stay on the property as long as they wanted to. While Mom was in the nursing home Dad bought a house at my insistence closer to us and moved there. When she was able to come home he took care of her there with the help of some aides who came during the day. He was hospitalized for a pacemaker implant in 2005, and some friends and I took turns staying with her overnight.
Mom passed away in October, 2007. Dad was completely worn out and hospitalized by pneumonia several times during early 2008. After we couldn’t locate him when we were out of town in the spring of 2008, we insisted that he relocate to a retirement home not far away. He had several falls and bouts with pneumonia in the next several years, topped off by a leg artery bypass last November which became infected. He wasn’t clear of that until March. He had several more hospitalizations for falls and hypertension during the summer and we started the process to move him to assisted living. About a month ago, he became dehydrated, fell, and had to be hospitalized. He was discharged to a rehab facility in town. Then he became hyper-hydrated which caused an electrolyte imbalance which caused him to be re-hospitalized. The hospital got things under control and he went back to the rehab place for three weeks of rest, p.t. and o.t. with the goal of becoming strong enough to live semi-independently in a nice assisted living place in town.
He was discharged yesterday and since his room at assisted living won’t be ready until late October, he is staying with us. I jokingly offered a cardboard box in the back yard, but we have set him up in the living room, converting it to a bedroom as we did when Becky was recovering from a hip operation several years ago and couldn’t use the stairs to the bedroom.
It’s good to have Dad with us. He and I have turned into jigsaw puzzle champs and enjoy watching the Nationals and Redskins play and doing our own color commentary on the games. He tells me stories from his earlier days that I have never heard before. If you want to talk to him, we had his phone number forwarded to ours so just call his number and it will ring here and he can talk to you. He would enjoy your visits, but please call to make sure he’s there.
I am touched and amazed by my father’s devotion to my mother, especially during her illness. He has endured all that has happened to him in the past ten years or so with grace and good humor (and a little grumbling). I respect and admire him for that, and I have found out in the past several years how much I love the guy. He is truly a great representative of the Greatest Generation. Welcome home, Dad.