Archive for August, 2006

Unleashing the Storm

August 27, 2006

Racing Grandpa

The unleashing began with the leaf blower. While working at the computer, I heard the muffled buzz. Dad was blowing away all the leaves, and cleaning up the steps and porch. Then an engine started up, and he drove off in his truck without finishing, abandoning a mound of leaves stacked by the front door entrance. Leaf blowing can be tiring, hard work for a guy, eighty-eight years old. How odd though–what was the container of anti-freeze doing on the front steps?

I figured Dad was taking trash to the landfill, an eyesore he’d created on his property for trash dumping. But if so, why was the trash still in the house? As forgetful as he was,  odds were he had forgotten the trash and would soon return.

The next thing I knew, Dad came huffing and puffing through the door. There had been no sound of an engine approaching. Dumping the mail on the table, he said, “I crashed the truck into a tree.” My smug feeling of having “everything under control” instantly dissipated. In shock, I looked blankly at my dad. There were no cuts or scratches. “Are you OK?” I asked. He assured me he didn’t get hurt at all and neither did the neighbor’s dogs that rode in the front seat with him. The front of the truck, however, was all bashed in and stuck in a tree. Surprisingly, it still ran when you turned the key in the ignition.

When asked what happened, he said, “Seems one of the dogs was lying on my foot. I couldn’t get my foot off the accelerator. Boy! If you don’t think that was a thrill, flying 80 miles per hour down the hill. I dodged the trees for as long as I could. Finally,  one stopped the truck.”

Oddly enough, this misadventure put a sparkle in my dad’s eyes. He had not experienced such excitement in quite awhile. Nothing breathes life into you like besting a dance with danger. Wrestling in death’s clutches he came out unscathed. We took a walk into the woods the next day to admire the smashed truck and how it was lodged into the tree.

The Calm before the Storm

August 27, 2006

Geritol Gypsy

As if from a deep sleep, a new, feisty era in my dad’s life rubbed its eyes, blinked and awakened.

Leaving Ken, the wonderful man in my life to fend for himself, I nestled down in Alabama to watch over Dad. Dad could not thank me enough for my help. When I arrived, his mail was scattered everywhere; he couldn’t remember things and was swimming in confusion. I helped him organize his papers and finances. I cleaned the house, putting everything in its proper place. And Dad’s life calmed down again.

But Dad lived by the code of never burdening others with your troubles. His stable course of action was to always solve things on his own. So based on this logic, his fierce independence, and a naturally stubborn nature, he arrived at the obvious conclusion. He could get along fine by himself.

Unbeknown to me and certainly unbeknown to my dad, his decision to be self-sufficient opened the door to a cascade of disasters. Because you see, “Getting along by himself” meant RE-ACTIVATING. Dear dad was not going to be glued to his bedroom chair where he endlessly read through enormous stacks of direct mail. He was not going to be glued to the den chair benignly watching TV or as he called it, “finding out what the world is doing”. Nor was he merely going to take boring, routine walks around the beautiful lake on his property. Despite all logical reasons for slowing down, life would start anew.

Moreover, within his reactivation lurked a subtle ticking bomb. Negating why I was there didn’t change the crux of the problem.

It was all so obvious. But there I was, oblivious to signs of impending disaster, merely carrying on with what had become my routine at Dad’s house. My routine consisted of getting a computer-based business going, so I could work “on the beach…in a mountain cabin…or anywhere I chose” like the freelance business promotion promised. My new business was the perfect solution to shuttling back and forth from California to Alabama . It promised a lucrative income and allowed me to do something I enjoyed.

Oh yes, it had all been solved. My new career challenge was in motion, and everything was under control regarding my dad. His bills, investments and other affairs were in order. The hurdles were behind us.

Hearing aids for both ears solved having to yell at him. His confusion lessened as he could now hear what I and others were saying. He was no longer downing six cokes a day. Evil cokes, the root of all tooth decay and hyper-activity became a thing of the past. Cokes were out. Xylitol was in–a natural sweetener and cavity preventative in his herbal tea drinks. The dentist filled his last three cavities. Amazed at the sudden decline in tooth decay, the dentist gave him an A+ on his teeth cleaning examination. I put him on a diet and supplements that calmed his raging, irrational outbursts.

Yes, I had learned to deal calmly with him. I knew which approaches worked. No stone was left unturned—calm sailing from here on out.

The Short End of the Memory Stick

August 27, 2006

Old Age Buffet

Sometimes not remembering what happened yesterday or even five minutes ago has its advantages. Yesterday doesn’t drag you down or rob your attention from what’s happening now, and every moment is new and fresh, leaving you to enjoy life today. That’s one way to look at it.

Throughout the travails and memory loss, my dad maintains his sense of humor. That passed down trait of “perceiving the humor in life” serves us both well. Dad’s memory slippage continuously rides a teeter-totter between lucid moments when he remembers his telephone number and moments of complete disorientation when he can’t find a glass in the kitchen.  The same cupboard housing glasses for twenty-five years eludes him. You never know on which side of the teeter-totter he will sit. Laugh with us and shed some tears as I tell you some stories about my dad.