Right now there is an impressive storm rolling through the area, with thunder, lightening, wind, and rain. I haven’t seen a storm like this since our camping escapade on Assateague Island.
The storm, however, is merely a way to segue into what is on my mind tonight..
Florida, October 1991
This is my oldest son with my dad for whom he was named. It was taken nearly 22 years ago, before my dad was ever diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease… before he had any symptoms of it at all. When he retired ten years ago, he and his wife chose to move from Florida and settle in Arizona. No one else in the family lives there. (We didn’t live in Florida, either; that is simply where his last job was located.) I took the kids to visit them in 2003, about 6 weeks after they settled into their new home. Good thing, too, because they only lived there for 2 years before his health required moving into a retirement center — and soon after that he began spending time in nursing care facilities.
I talked to my dad on the phone on Friday. His voice was weak and he was having more trouble than usual with his words. I didn’t think too much of it because that wasn’t the first time I’d had a frustrating “conversation” with him in the past few years. However, this evening I received my weekly update from his assisted living facility, and I didn’t have to read between the lines on that e-mail to know that he’s been going downhill.
I’ve already made my travel reservations to go see him in the first part of November. In fact, I did that about 2 weeks ago after reading between the lines on previous updates. Each of my brothers will be there in October for a few days. I’d rather time it to be there with at least one of them, but I had to work around family schedule here along with my own work schedule. I’m grateful that I have a job that allows me to pay for such a trip.
Not a week goes by now that I don’t fervently wish my dad had considered living closer to family in his old age. Had they chosen to live within a day’s drive of many of us, we could visit more often and more easily; his wife would have been able to see her adult kids more often, too.
When we visited in April of 2012, Grandpa could still walk down the hallway with a walker and a “spotter” (responsible adult), although that was difficult for him — mostly he got around in his wheelchair.
Grandpa with SnakeMaster and H-J, April 2013
When we visited him one year later, he was only using his walker to steady himself when transferring from the wheelchair to his special recliner or another position (bed, toilet, etc.). Now, just 4 months later, he is needing multiple people to assist him in those transfers because he doesn’t have the strength to help… but he is still trying to do things on his own. Several falls have not stopped him from trying to do it himself. I really can’t tell if he is being stubborn in giving up his independence (hello? He’s been in an Assisted Living facility for the past several years) or if he is forgetting that he can’t do it himself. There is some dementia that comes with Parkinson’s Disease. I suspect there is also despair that comes with losing the ability to care for oneself.
And the thunder rolls…