Traveling Man

When I first arrived at the nursing home, Dad was busily wheeling around in his wheelchair, using his feet to move forward. He got a bit of exercise that way and certainly a substantial change in scenery. The first moment I arrived, other than greeting me with a big “Hello Lyn!” and a smile, he scarcely stopped for a visit. I had to tag along if I was going to visit because he obviously had traveling plans. So I wheeled him throughout the very large nursing home, and at every door, he would push to see if he could open it. It is a locked facility for just such reasons, and you need to punch in a security code to exit certain areas. He knew the doors wouldn’t acquiesce, but gave them a perfunctory push just the same.

Each day fell into a familiar pattern, except for the day we went to the dentist. It was quite cold in Alabama. I did not want to expose him to the harsh winter weather. However, widening Dad’s horizons beyond the sequestered Alzheimer’s Unit seemed to satisfy his wanderlust.

The last day of my visit, I saw my son Brad crouched down beside Dad’s wheelchair. He was chatting with Dad as Dad busily rattled the rail on the door, seeing if by some fluke the door would open for him.

He had never been so intent on getting out as he was this last visit. I suppose I should have foreseen this change. I know wandering is a symptom of his condition, and in our daily phone chats he had mentioned several times that he was trying to decide where to go. One day he told me he wasn’t sure if he would stay there or go home. When I asked which home he was going to, he wasn’t able to answer and returned to stating the problem over and over several times. I just acknowledged that he seemed quite busy and had some big decisions to make. He liked that and appeared to be savoring his problem.

Everyone needs a good problem to chew on once in awhile. It gives your life significance and lends importance to activities. You see, what the problem is, is quite irrelevant–just so you have one. If you add to your problem “places to go and people to see,” you have a recipe for entertainment. So my little dad was just a bundle of entertainment this trip, having moved beyond a more sedentary existence as he became a “traveling man.”

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6 Responses to “Traveling Man”

  1. writerchick Says:

    I’m glad to see that this trip seemed more lighthearted for both of you. And giving him a problem to solve and consider was probably a great present to him. It let him use his mind whilst his feet were impelling him forward. In ways – sometimes your stories remind me of stories of an active young boy, anxious to know the world.
    WC

  2. michaelm Says:

    It’s nice that your Dad still has a desire and curiousity for ‘more’.
    My Dad lost that well over a year ago.
    Enjoy the time with him now. Sometimes ‘today’ is all you can really count on.
    I wish the best for you in the upcoming year.
    Should you ever need a shoulder to lean on, email me.
    I have really big shoulders…
    Take care, PG.

    ~m

  3. Popsgirl Says:

    WC – That’s right. In many ways my dad reminds me of an active young boy, and now that his memory is fading fast, everything seems rather “new” for him. Traveling was always one of his joys, and throughout his life, he had been an adventurerer of one kind or another–even if only on a small scale and if in no other way, at least in terms of seeing what the next moment will bring.

    ~ PG

    Michael – Thanks for the advice to enjoy my dad while I can and for the offer of your big shoulders to lean on. It’s tough to watch my father’s decline. I wish you the best too in the upcoming year.

    ~ PG

  4. hummingbird Says:

    Hey, stumbled onto you blog and it really struck a chord with me. My grandmother had Alzheimers…. the long goodbye they call it. It is really hard to watch a loved one go through, to lose that person slowly, inevitably. You write with such insight and grace, and I hope that this transition, this difficult phase, sees you with lots of kindness and support around you. Also, sometimes, in moments of lucidity, it isnt all bad. Sometimes my grandmother cracked jokes about needing help to go to the bathroom, bless her, and there will be such moments. We were sometimes able to laugh together, and she remembered be enough, before she left this world, to hold me close a few times. Laughter will remind you of the person who is still there, masked, dormant within the disease, but still there. Stay steady. Its hard but its real, and you’ll do okay. You can email me too, if you like. I know what it means to deal with this.

  5. Popsgirl Says:

    Thank you for your kind thoughts, insights, wishes, and offer to email, hummingfbird. This sort of dimentia has touched so many people’s lives, and it seems to have become more and more commonplace these days. You’re right–there are those good moments, the ones of lucidity or laughter, and clinging to them makes the journey more bearable. Still too long, but more bearable. You had some wonderful times with your grandmother and thanks so much for going out of your way to share them with me.

    ~ PG

  6. Photo Buffet Says:

    Having gone through the dementia thing with my dad, I can empathize with your experience. No advice–you’ll find your way through because you have to–but I’m praying for the ups and downs of letting go what you used to know of him. I like your approach–celebrate each day. Remember him as the person you know he is deep inside. You are in my prayers. Truly.

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