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.