Monday, June 1, 2009

church with Dad

Last night we had our bi-monthly service at the nursing home. My dad went to church with us. As we were sitting there together, singing WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE, I realized that it was only the second time in my life that we'd gone to church together. (both times have been in the nursing home) And aI realized that he knew all of the words to the song we were singing.

It was a sweet moment, until he started acting like me.
So, my third realization of the night: I AM MY FATHER'S DAUGHTER.
As my husband preached on, both Dad and I started to look at our watches and get a little antsy. And then dad started to whisper words that shouldn't be whispered in church. He went on to talk about my husband being a little long winded and the fact that old people can't sit that long. It went from there to, "Well, I'm outta here. Time for my smoke break."

There were sweet moments last night. A dear older man sang a song that his father used to sing, about reading the Bible in a cabin by the sea. One lady shared with me that she taught school until she was 80, and that she started to go down hill after retiring. She's nearly 100 now, she says, and she just isn't doing as good as she used to.

My dad isn't as independent as these two. He lives on a locked unit with people that he's known for years, and none of them know each other now. I think that's one of the saddest things about the disease of alzheimers. They can't sit and talk about the old days, or compare pictures of their grandchildren. They don't play bingo. Instead they play games trying to remember the state they live in and the month of the year. They were robbed of their golden years.

Yesterday a lady who was once the librarian in our small town stood inside while I sat outside with my dad. She waved and whispered that she'd like to come outside with us. It was hard, leaving her inside. This disease has made them prisoners in so many ways. They're locked inside a nursing home hall, a place they never leave and where few people visit. To make it worse, they are locked inside a mind that no longer remembers who they were.

My dad remembers me. He remembers bits and pieces of who he was. Nothing makes me happier than when he sees me walk through the doors, he smiles and says, "Hey brat."
I cherish these moments when he is still my dad.


Jessica said...

That was too funny in the beginning, about you all getting antsy.
But sad at the end. At least he still remembers you and you have that to share with him.

brenda minton said...

It really was a lot of fun. I promise, we spent most of our evening laughing. AND THEN, my daughter took off with him, and we lost them for a about ten minutes. It was panic time because we were afraid he convinced her to take him outside. We did find them outside, but one of the aids was with them.

Sierra Donovan said...

Brenda, I feel for you. My husband's father declined severely with Alzheimer's in his later years. His mother lost most of her capacity at the end, but they believed it had more to do with "little strokes" that hospital tests couldn't seem to detect. She died several years before my father-in-law.

A few darkly humorous moments came from the Alzheimer's. At first my father-in-law had trouble remembering his wife had passed away, and he kept trying to call her at their old phone number. Finally he added a note next to that number on the speed dial on his phone at the home. Underneath my mother-in-law's name, he wrote: "Dead."

brenda minton said...

Sierra..Oh no, I'm sitting here wondering, is it okay to be laughing? But you're right, there are darkly humorous moments.

My dad's roomie was one of his best fishing buddies, but on any given day, they didn't know each other. I would take in cookies for them, and Dad didn't want to share. I'd remind him that his roomie was Harold and Dad would get excited, "I used to fish with him!"
I finally wrote a note and put it next to his bed, "Your room mate is your fishing buddy, Harold."

They're tossing a coin on dad, not sure if it is alzheimers or dementia from strokes.