Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hello from Hurricane Isabel

Nope, I haven't written in awhile.  This time I make no promises about being "back" or how often I will update.  My promises have become void, my word dishonorable.  So I will not offer any false promises this time or guarantees that I may not able to fill.

Dad is now installed in a second assisted living adult home.  The owner of the first one he lived at for a few months had asked the State to initiate closing, since he could not keep up with a necessary list of corrections. Dad and I looked at three places during the first seven days after he was told that he (and the other folks living in home #1) would have to move within a month.  The nice guy from the state gave me the names of the two places around here that were top scorers on State Inspections.  I selected a third to look at as well.  The third place was an adult home specifically for veterans.  The place was run down, which was rather unfortunate as the concept was excellent, and so Dad rejected it.  The second place was a bit of a drive out in the country "next to the chickens," Dad said.  The place Dad chose was smaller than the home that was closing-- room for twenty folks rather than seventy-- but also well-kept and beautiful.  Here was an activities calendar that was not entire fakery.  Here was a true feeling of home and appetizing smells wafting through from the kitchen.  Dad was accepted.

Dad panicked a bit after hearing that he was accepted.  Suddenly he wanted to see several more places.  He didn't want to leave until he absolutely had to.  I wanted him out of there as soon as possible as already staff was quitting.  The day came and Dad was packed up.  Husband and I moved Dad to his new room in his new assisted living place.  We moved his stuff up the elevator (equipped with a chair for sitting in should someone wish it while using the elevator) and into his rectangular room with a view of some very large pines out his window.  We ate lunch and left Dad for his first day in the new place.

Dad settled in.  Within the week, he was talking about his observations of his house mates-- a couple had also landed in the same place Dad had so there were a few familiar faces-- and staff and board members. The board members were all (and remain) actively involved in the day-to-day affairs of the house.  Dad quickly became comfortable with the sea of middle-aged ladies who came to visit almost daily.  He was instrumental in getting a new flag for the house and he began to help take care of the beautiful flower gardens outside.  He also insisted vehemently to the staff that feeding the local squirrels bread was equivalent to encouraging mice to visit.  He often went outside and picked up the pieces of bread that someone had scattered around the lawn, replacing them with peanuts at the base of one tree from his own stock of foodstuff.  When staff told me what Dad was doing, I smiled and said he was correct about the bread.  During the summer, I often arrived to find Dad watering the flowers or inspecting the leaves of the old cherry tree or delivering nuts to the squirrels.

Being involved with the garden suits Dad.  His dad had a gardening/landscaping/mowing business.  Dad had helped with this venture as a teen.  As a small boy, Dad lived with his family on a truck farm during the Great Depression.  Dad remembers the chickens.  There were chickens on the farm-- and later there were chickens in their backyard in town.  Dad also had homing pigeons as a boy.  Two of Dad's brothers went into landscaping after their stints in the Armed Forces.  So growing things and small animal husbandry are "in the blood," to use a quaint turn of phrase.

There have been unsettling times too.  It took awhile to get the medication right for Dad's (now confirmed) Lewey Bodies Dementia.  There have been days when Dad has wanted to drive, travel, relocate to non-assisted living, not take any medications, or focus on government conspiracy topics.  Even now, Dad still wants a job part-time.  And there are other days where the old Dad shines through his dementia.  And other days, the majority of days, where Dad does not appear to be a stranger to me because of his neurological decline.  On most days we smile and laugh and talk about the state of the world over coffee at the local diner or on a ride to the V.A. for a medical appointment.

Dad has endeared himself to the staff at the house because of his sense of humor, his ability to calm one old lady in the midst of her violent verbal outbursts, his neatness and care to his appearance.  One night the electricity failed in half of Dad's bedroom.  He quietly took the elevator to the basement, found the circuit breaker, inspected the electrical system and correctly diagnosed a problem (which he alerted the maintenance man to the next morning who called the electrician immediately to fix it), but then could not find his way back out of the basement.  Dad knocked on the walls a bit saying, "Help, I'm down here" until an alert night person heard and retrieved him.  He would sit with the one old lady in the midst of her agitation, talking to her over and over until she calmed down.  And he retains the ability to shower and shave and somewhat organize the belongings in his bedroom.

The other day, Dad remarked to me that he wanted to help the mayor run for re-election.  "But Dad, she's a Democrat," I told him, knowing that he remains a staunch Republican.  "That can change," he replied.  And indeed, Dad is registered to vote and is looking forward to going to the polls for the next election.

I am slowing acclimating to Dad's fluctuating neurology, accepting that he will die and that the dementia has left its' mark on his being like pock marks or a permanent unappreciated tattoo.  And although these things explain part of my absence, it does not explain all of it.  The rest of it has to do with the fatigue that is generated by my brain injury, my inability to extend myself emotionally while being with Dad during his final days, my increasing preoccupation with the computer art type things that I have been creating from my photographs, my own frustration when I think about all the things I have yet to do during the time I have left here on this sojourn.

And so, I hit the "publish post" button and retreat once again to my window where I am watching the rain and high winds of the latest hurricane.  I am impatient with the necessity of staying inside today.  I long for my deck where I sit studying the birds who visit my feeders (and a few individual birds who visit me!) while my old dog snoozes nearby.  The news is bad.  Ten people have died because of this storm along the eastern seaboard already and it ain't over yet.  My own spirit is lousy with restlessness.

sapphoq on life