THE CAT NEEDED WATER; MY DAD BROKE HIS HIP; AND I'M IN THE BASEMENT
WITH BOXES FROM MY MOTHER'S LIFE. A TRIP TO NEEDHAM, MA.
Contact: Email me! Art Web Site: TEXT
Flying to Boston was expected to be a busy week, sorting through my mothers belongings,
visiting my Dad in his new memory care unit, and spending time with my sister, brother-
in-law, and nephew. On my ride from Logan Airport to Needham, I was aware that
communicating with my father, who has lost most of his memory to dementia and sorting through the belongings of my mother's life would be poignant experiences. What surprised
me was the depth of my senses to my surroundings as unexpected events large and small enveloped my immediate world.
|Dad and my sister, Lynn, enjoying great weather|
My Dad always seems to know me when I greet him with a booming voice and
familiarity, though he does not necessarily remember my name. I am a "safe" person
as are my sister, nephew, brother-in-law and our incredible aids who have come to love
him in his limited world. He can read about four words now, but he then has to stop be-
cause the effort is too much. My Dad likes to sing and make funny noises and generally
enjoys life. The dark side is his inability to perform simple tasks which can frustrate
him terribly and make him lash out or become very stubborn and focused on one action.
|Globi drinking out of my water glass and gazing out of the window in my bedroom|
Globi is my sister's cat and he and I have always had a mutual liking. During the visit, I sensed a different quality of attention coming from him and I was drawn closer to his needs. Globi is dying of liver disease and desires large quantities of water. He began to lap at my water glass on my night table, sometimes interrupting my sleep to take his needed drink. I began to make sure the glass was always full and learned how to tilt it correctly so his delicate tongue could reach a lower water level. We became collaborators in his quest to drink from the water glass. It was a moment in time that allowed me to focus on one task of helpfulness and aid. It felt very rewarding and created a closeness to a creature I had known for many years. Witnessing the fading of a life is powerful and sad with the inevitable outcome. As I watched my mother decline and now my father (and yes, Globi), my impulse was and is to do anything I can to
to relieve any suffering or worry, an unfailing universal reaction.
Saturday morning, as I was preparing to take a walk, my sister received a call that my Dad
had fallen. Lynn had an important work meeting and needed to stay home. I swiftly picked
up the car keys and drove with great urgency to my Dad's living facility. When I arrived, the ambulance had just pulled into the drive. I ran to my Dad's room and found him laying on the floor on his side complaining of pain. The paramedics quickly went about their work and I
held onto my Dad's hand until I needed to move out of the way. I raced to the hospital where
I literally ran into Paul, one of my Dad's aids. He had been on his way to visit my Dad when he received a text from my sister about my father's accident. We were directed to to the ER where a series of doctors and nurses were accessing my Dad's injuries. We were told he might have
fractured his hip. Yikes!! Paul and I stayed with Dad for four hours until the doctor could read his X-rays and deliver a diagnosis. The surgeon came down to the ER and was acquainted
with my father because Dad had been a volunteer at the hospital. He, indeed, had a broken hip and needed partial hip replacement surgery. It was time to call my sister, who had been texting frequently, with the diagnosis. A few hours later my sister, Paul, and I congregated in my
Dad's new hospital room upstairs. Lynn worked out a schedule for us to be with my father around the clock. A dementia patient cannot be alone with medical problems because they do
not understand and have no memory from moment to moment. My Dad had to be continually told that his hip was broken and he could not move. At one point, during one of my shifts, Dad became so focused on escaping the confines of the bed, he began yelling at the nurses he could
see walking by the room. My father has a rather booming voice that carries extremely well.
He would not calm down or listen to my attempts to change the subject or "jolly" him out of the singular idea of moving out of bed. The nurse had to come and sedate him.
|Hospital Wall and TV|
During the next few days we all spent hours with my Dad before and after his surgery. I loved
talking to him and making him smile and laugh. Though he could not always understand
my conversation he was able to catch the gist of a joke. He was of course hooked up to all
kinds of machines to monitor his health. At 92, he continues to be feisty and sheer will and sometimes desperation allowed me to learned how to machinate his various moods and resistance to the nurses and doctors fussing with his body. The role reversal a child must accept with an aging parent becomes natural and necessary. Despite the circumstances, I found
myself appreciating and feeling a great closeness to my Dad.
|Dad and Nate's noses are alike|
a similar shape. I became intrigued and needed to do a visual "side by side". Poor Nate was annoyed at my continuous picture-taking, trying to find the correct angle. I could not blame him. The "seed" of an idea seems to be stronger than the risk of irritating a relative.
My father is now in a rehab and is "watched-over" every moment by the family or his beloved
aids. I continue to monitor his progress from New Mexico.
|My mother's starfish and cousin Edith's water glasses|
My main task for visiting Needham was to spend time in Lynn's basement organizing and
choosing items from my mothers belongings. Lynn's basement is similar to the basement
we had in Valley Stream, LI-rather dark and dankish with a dash of cavern. There is very
little natural light and time of day cannot really be established. I spent days opening boxes
that rekindled memories of other times. When I was done, I had six boxes to send home that contained: books; photos and albums of my parents nature photography; my mothers flower arranging material (sea shells, driftwood, interesting dried pods); Cousin Edith's water
glasses; and various other items. My basement stint was a "time out of time"experience, stimulating thoughts about how we live our lives with chosen paraphernalia. Revisiting the
"stuff" of my parents lives became a study and connection to my time with my parents. It
was also a brutal and physical proof of the death of a family unit, seeing items out of context that were once familiarly viewed in my parents home, stacked in the basement for the family
to divide. For me, the world has "tilted" to an unfamiliar angle of life as I digest the loss of
my mother and essentially the father I once knew as a smart and vibrant man.
|New Flowers for my mother|
The most peaceful part of my week was visiting my mother's grave. Her ashes are buried in
a beautifully spacious cemetery with hills and trees where she and my Dad used to walk.
I lay on the grass and and gazed up at the canopy of the very large tree above me as it "swished" in the wind. I loved the sound. One day it threw acorns at me and I could hear my mother laughing.
|Lynn and husband, Stephen|
Lynn and Stephen
Lynn and Stephen were wonderful hosts who took me out for some fantastic seafood dinners.
Lynn has borne the brunt of my parents illness's and I really appreciate how she has taken
such good care of them.