Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Happy Birthday, Daddy

Work has been eating my ass from the bottom up, so I'm sorry it's taken me awhile to write about my visit to the parents. That and it's taking me some time to process what's really happening. Today is my dad's 68th birthday, so it seems fitting that I finally write about this today.

Background: June 17, 2004, my dad had a stroke. A pretty bad stroke. Then in November, he had another one. After that second one, we thought he was going to die. He made a miraculous recovery, though, and actually ended up better after that stroke than he was before it. Fastforward to now: after months of therapy, he's at home, but he continues therapy 3x/week as an outpatient.

Physically, he's stronger, but he'll never be able to use his left arm/hand again. He's in a wheelchair and right now the therapists are working on getting him to walk short distances with a leg brace. If he could do that, it would be fantastic. Right now, my mom has to help him with transitions between his wheelchair and chair/bed/car/shower/toilet. He can't manage much of anything alone. My mom has to dress him, cut his food, help him go to the bathroom, and fetch any and every little thing he needs. It would be a huge help if he could just stand up and walk a few steps to the supper table. Or a few steps to the bed. Without my mom having to do all the transfers all the time.

Mentally, he's.... There are times he's perfectly normal. His long-term memory is perfect. Anything pre-stroke, he's good on. After the strokes? Not so much. His short-term memory sucks. He has no sense of time/date. He imagines things. I'm not going to go into detail on this stuff, just suffice to say, his mental state is such that he can't be left alone.

My dad loves telling jokes. Still does. The stroke hasn't affected that. But, because his left side is completely numb, he can't smile anymore. And, strangely, he doesn't laugh anymore. My mom says that's what she misses the most about him, his laugh and smile.

Right now, he's working his ass off in therapy because he wants to walk again. As long as he makes "some progress," Medicare continues to pay for the therapy. I dread the day the therapists say they've done all they can. Because that's the day my dad will give up and it will only be a matter of time before he's gone. My mom and I talked about that when I was down there, and we both think that. My mom's exact words, "He won't last long living like he is now." I think she's right.

My dad is/was a strong, active, independent man. He retired almost 10 years ago, but he's always kept busy. He played golf every single day (my parents live close enough to a golf course that they just take their golf carts to the course). He fished (they live on a lake and have a pontoon boat). He worked in the yard and garden. He built adirondack furniture. He and my mom spend January-March in south Texas (they said Memphis got too cold in the winter, whatever!) in their RV playing golf, line dancing, day-tripping into Mexico, etc. with all the other retirees down there. Other times of the year, they would take off in their RV just to see stuff.

Being completely dependent on my mom is horrible for him. And, it's horrible for my mom. She's continually doing for him. She has a wee bit of help, but not much. A friend takes my dad to therapy on Mondays so she can go grocery shopping. Wednesday mornings/afternoons, she has a nurse come in so that she can go play bridge. My sisters (Sis1, Sis2, and Sis3) all live within a 1 hour drive of the parents. Sis2 visits at least once per week and brings casseroles and stuff so my mom doesn't have to cook all the time. She also helps with some housework. Sis3 and her husband visit a couple of times per month and take care of all the yard work, boat maintenance, etc. Bro and I both live too far away to be of any help (he's in Houston). That leaves Sis1 who is a lazy ass. She is single, works full-time, school part-time. But, she can't be arsed to visit much more often than I do. When she does, she sits on her ass and doesn't do anything.

Case in point: for the family get-together last week, she called and asked Mom if she could bring anything. My dad loves this fruit salad with little marshmallows in it, so Sis1 offered to bring that. I warned Mom that she would show up with the cans and the salad not mixed up (note: this salad is nothing more than canned fruit, marshmallows, and mayo...not hard or time-consuming). Why do I know this? She did the exact same thing at Christmas at Sis3's house. So, Sis1 shows up, and surprise, surprise! Cans in a grocery bag, "Sorry, I didn't have time to make the salad up." Mom glares at her and says, "You know where the bowls are. Get to work." Then after lunch, while Sis2, Sis3, SIL and I were cleaning the kitchen (Bro was wrangling children), where was Sis1? God if I know. Nowhere to be found, that's for sure. Because if she was around, she may have to *gasp* work.

I shared some pictures from last week with Da Broad. I'm not going to post them here because they make me sad. My dad looks 20 years older. He looks like a frail, old man and not the man I know as my Daddy. My mom looks older, too. She's lost weight which isn't good. She was tiny to begin with. She's just worn out and tired.

I feel guilty for not being there and being able to help out my mom. There's not a damn thing I can do for my dad, but I could help my mom. I also feel guilty because part of me thinks it would have been better for my mom if he had died after that second stroke. Well, easier, maybe. Not better. I feel helpless that I can't change things and make them better. I'm already grieving for the Daddy I've lost while I'm just marking time until he's really gone.

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