Alzheimer’s Stole my Father
One of the things that frighten me about aging is the failing of health. If I could live to be one hundred, be capable of taking care of myself and still think clear, I believe I would find life immensely enjoyable. The thought of having to rely on someone else for my care keeps me actively pursuing information regarding my health. There is a saying that your eyes are the windows to your soul, but I’ve looked into the eyes of those with Alzheimer’s and was saddened and mystified by what I found there. Prior to my father passing away I would stop to visit my father in the care home, sometimes taking my mother with me. It never failed that his face would light up when he spotted her, but many times I saw no sign of recognition when his eyes lit upon me.
Father goes to a Nursing Home
My mother lost her ability to speak about five years back due to a stroke, but my parents needed no speech. He would gesture, she would follow with a response to his unspoken request. After 50 years of marriage their communication needed no words but the glances they exchanged spoke volumes. Mom would pack a small Tupperware dish with fudge swirl ice cream and bring a spoon in a lunch bag. She patiently fed Father, then gently wiped his face and planted a kiss on his cheek. Sometimes I would see a tear slide down her cheek. She would tuck the blanket in around his legs in the wheel chair, make sure his socks were pulled up and his slippers snug. She would then wipe every thing down that had sticky spots of ice cream on them.
Dad took over when Mom had a Stroke
I thought back to when Dad had called us and we all rushed to Mom’s bedside at the hospital. My mother has had a problem with hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) for a number of years. She had stubbornly tried diet and garlic to lower it on her own, until she finally succumbed to the doctor’s advice and started taking medication to lower it. Mom worked long hours in a factory, and coached softball for the church youth group. She and Dad dieted together and were looking good. I thought her health was good, but she did not look good as she lay in the hospital bed. Frustration was written on her face. She was able to write us notes, but even then the words seemed to escape her as she stared at the paper for long silent moments.
Love Means Commitment
Dad stayed at her side day and night until they released her and then she could not take a step without his watchful eye. He took over the cooking and cleaning, which was definitely an indication of love from a man who never stepped foot in the kitchen before. It was during this time that I came to appreciate my father more. I saw a gentleness and tenderness in him that was new to me.
Dad Instilled in us a Strong Work Ethic
Dad and I never bonded, but I have learned much from him. He taught me that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Father never did anything half way. In fact I never saw a mistake in anything he built or repaired. He fixed cars, did plumbing, electrical, construction, woodwork, painted, hauled grain, farmed and any number of odd jobs. It was because of Dad’s woodworking skills that my sister and I had access to scrap wood and his tools. We made birthday and Christmas presents for years.
Father was Strict
He believed in a strong work ethic, honesty, respect, and cleanliness. Father was strict and firm while Mom was too, but she took time to play.
He Left us Tender Memories
Dad, I believe that your father’s day in heaven is infinitely better than the last one you had with us. I know God has restored your mind. You’ve no need for a body where you are. Perhaps you have wings? The last I saw you; you lay peacefully in your bed, where you had passed in your sleep. The pajamas hung on your lean frame. They say you lost your appetite and I’ve since learned that with Alzheimer’s the patient actually forgets how to eat. Father, I choose to cherish the memory of your tenderness with Mom, as she is so special to me, and it did my heart good to see what she meant to you. I used to say she was a saint to have put up with you, but in the end you took care of her as best you could. I know you are still looking over her with love because the kind of love the two of you had cannot be severed by time or space.
I love you, Daddy. Happy Father’s Day.