Friday, May 31, 2013
I visited Dad at the V.A today, but for about the first twenty minutes he didn't really know I was there. He was sleeping in the Geri chair in the dining room when I arrived. I tried to wake him, I spoke to him, I hugged him, but he didn't respond much, other than random mumbling.
Maria (one of the nurses) finally got him to wake up, and when he saw me he started crying. He stared at me and tears spilled over onto his cheeks. I hugged him, I kissed him, then I tried to divert his attention with sweet iced tea and Sonic onion rings, but he wouldn't drink or eat more than a few sips and four or five bites.
I told him I was sorry that I hadn't visited, but that I had been sick. He wrinkled his brow and asked,, "You okay...?" I told him I was fine now. He nodded his head and closed his eyes.
Dad dozed off fitfully and I held his hand. Every now and then he would startle awake and call, “Honey?”. I think he thought I was Mom. I would clasp his hand tighter and say, “I’m here”, and he’d settle back down for a few minutes. At one point he opened his eyes and became animated and started trying to tell me something, his eyes wide and red rimmed, desperate, but he couldn't even get a full word out. I could see he was getting frustrated, so I told him, "Dad, it's okay. You've already told me everything I need to know. You've told me everything important, and I remember. I remember everything you told me". This eased him enough so that he started relaxing.
He finally settled down and closed his eyes.
While he slept his body began slipping down in the chair, so two nurses grabbed his arms and pulled him upright. This woke him and upset him a lot. When the nurses walked off, Dad looked at me and said, "Leave me alone", quite plainly. I told him I wouldn't let anyone else bother him and then I just sat and held his hand while he drifted back off to sleep. I placed my head gently on his chest and listened to his heart beat and I breathed in the scent of him. One day soon I know I’ll miss that scent. It is my daddy's scent and no else on earth smells the way he does. It is how I have always identified him. It calms me, it soothes me, it lets me know I am loved.
His body is wasting away. Food no longer holds much interest for him. His arms are so very thin and the skin is stretched over his ribcage. He has no muscle tone left at all. His hands stay curled in on themselves like a baby's. The hair on his arms is sparse and his eyebrows are nearly gone. His teeth appear too large for his mouth. There are angry looking red and purple spots on his forearms. His scalp is dry and flaking. His feet stay swollen like balloons. His eyes are watery and unfocused. His days consist of lying in the Geri chair. He does not respond to television or music. He has no quality of life left at all.
I would give almost anything to have one last conversation with him. A real conversation like he and I used to have. A conversation about life, what's important and what isn't, how he feels, memories of his life. But that conversation will never happen again. It's in the past with so much else.
Dad is being moved to a palliative care floor next week.
I fucking hate Alzheimer's.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
The past month has been a weird one...
For the past two months I have been blanketing Georgia with job applications for a teaching position for next year. I have stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning filling out application after application online. I landed two job interviews this month, and lo and behold, praise Jesus and pass the biscuits, at the second interview I was offered a teaching position. The job is two hours away which means, of course, I will be moving to a new town and driving back to my real home on the weekends, but the town where I will be teaching is quaint and friendly. The school is also offering me a chance at teaching autonomy so I can practice my “craft” and make a difference in students’ lives (I know that “making a difference” is an overused cliche, but cliches become cliches for a reason; they’re true). I am not one who likes to be micro-managed. I know how to teach, I know how to get results, I know how to make learning a positive experience for my students. Give me even semi-autonomy and I will give back students who have learned how to think.. really think. For life. I am amazed at the opportunity that I have been offered. Things just kind of work out sometimes, don’t they? In the most unforeseen ways.
I have rented a small house in my new teaching town, started planning on what furniture to take with me, and Dear Husband and I have talked about how we’ll make this work. A two hour drive is not far- I can be home in no time.. less than no time if I plug a little Beth Hart full blast into the CD player.. (speaking of which I saw her in Atlanta this month and she kicked some major musical ass).
The Beth Hart concert was day two of four days of feeling normal. After the concert I relapsed with my oh so glorious upper respiratory infection. A week after the interview (I went to my job interview sick.. so sick that I really don’t know how I got through it) the principal phoned with the good news that the BOE approved my hiring. My daughter swears that once the principal sees me in my natural pingy, bouncing off the walls state he will wonder what happened to that sedate, pensive woman at the interview and will be looking for an out. But it'll be too late.... he will be stuck with me, but he'll learn to dearly love me, over an extended length of time. I promise.
Two rounds of antibiotics and a round of predisone didn’t kick Mr. Respiratory Infection’s butt. I finally had the proverbial rug pulled out for under my feet and I was forced to admit defeat. After spending a mind numbing, National Geographic watching four days in the hospital where they blew out seven of my veins and never did give me any real answers, except to let me know that I don’t have TB, I think I may finally be on my way to recuperation. The IV antibiotics they flooded me with seem to have been the magic key.
So, I have a dream job at a charter school for next year and I have a nice little duplex that I can decorate any way I want. I will be a mile from my school so I can ride my bike to work if I want. All I need is a nerdy little wire basket installed. My Dear Husband is so very very glad that I will be taking my big ass green chair I have in the living room. He hates my chair. In fact, it may be the first item he loads onto the moving trailer.
So there’s life..
Dad is still battling the Alzheimer’s beast and I miss him so much I ache, Mom is still trying to fit into the new role that life has thrust uninvited upon her, my grandson is crawling and becoming mobile and independent, my rose bush is blooming magnificent roses, and I have a new wrinkle on my face. In other words, life marches on with little to no real predictability, except that the sun will rise tomorrow and a new realm of possibilities, joys, heartaches, tears, and laughter will present themselves to me for inspection.
Ain’t life a kick?
Monday, May 6, 2013
I have been sick for the past five days. My throat so sore it has felt like a blow torch was shoved down and allowed to char cook my tonsils. My body has been achy. I have been running a fever. I have been extremely sleepy and lethargic. I have moaned, whined, and bitched to everyone who came within earshot, “I don’t feeeeel good.” I am sure my poor husband has just about had it with my self pity and kvetching. Today he stayed outside all day working in the yard. He knew I wouldn’t follow because I looked like shit; I haven’t taken a shower in two days and I don't even have on the last visages of makeup. But my dear husband still abided by his husbandly duties by peeking into the front door occasionally, asking loudly if I needed water or medicine, and then hauling ass back in the yard again before I could launch into my self pity “woe is me” diatribe. Or maybe I just REALLY needed a shower.
The medicine that the doctor gave me to treat this whatever-it-is illness are the biggest pills I have ever seen. It’s like swallowing a big blue balloon. Or a blue ball. Or a donkey ball. I mean those pill are HUGE. So much so that I had my husband demonstrate that he still knew how to perform the Heimlich before I would take one.
On day three of said illness, right before it reached its very pinnacle and literally knocked me on my ass, I went to a job interview. Actually my illness may have contributed to what I believe was a very successful job interview. The feeling-like-shit thing actually suppressed some of my natural pinginess and ADHD behaviors that tend to scare people when they first meet me. And when I am nervous the pinginess gets worse. I get nervous at job interviews. See a cycle here? So my being sick may actually turn out to be a good thing. I’ll know in about a week and a half. During the interview I surprised myself with my calmness and the relative ease with which I stayed on one subject at a time. I am sure the interviewers thought I was a perfectly normal person.
Aside from the job interview the rest of being sick has been like being sick usually is: miserable. I missed two beautiful days- a weekend, no less. Well, maybe one beautiful day; it rained all day Saturday. Okay, I don’t feel so robbed now- I only missed one beautiful day. I can make that up.
Tonight I have started feeling so much better. Human almost. I am aware that I need a bath and mascara. This keeps up and there’s even a good chance that I will be able to use the Beth Hart tickets my wonderful friend Scott gave me. I was starting to think the concert was a total wash and everyone on earth would be watching Beth Hart rock the house down Tuesday night except poor little sick me. If I don’t choke to death on one of those blue pills, I may end up having a memorable time at Old Smith’s Bar in Atlanta in two days. Party on, Garth. (I wonder if I can crush those blue pills and snort them instead? Snorting would be so much simpler).
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Today Maryland repealed the death penalty and Rhode Island approved same sex marriage. A man killed himself in a Houston, Texas airport. A gold mine collapsed in the Sudanese killing scores of people. One World Trade Center in New York had its final spire put into place, almost twelve years after 9/11..
I guess the old saying about change being the only constant in life is true. Every thing is continually changing, and there's something indefinable about passing the half century mark of my life that actually makes me more aware of change. I am experiencing the first hints of feeling "out-of-step" with the world, something my grandfather once talked about. I didn't know what he meant back then, but the first gleanings are starting to take form in my brain. All of this is slowly ceasing to be my generation's world. The torch is being passed. I wonder how they will handle the world. With tender mercies, iron fists, compassion, intelligence?
Once upon a time, my father and I were outside in his yard one summer day and the conversation turned to time travel. I asked if he could travel to any time in the history of the world what time period would he travel to? I expected an answer like ancient Egypt during the construction of the pyramids, but instead he answered, “I’d want to travel a thousand years in the future. I want to see what eventually happens to all of this” and he swept his arms in a gesture of encompassing the world. I looked around and above and into his eyes, and a spark was fired that referenced my place regarding my morality and my briefness upon this planet. Twenty years later, that spark is a full blown bonfire. We live in a world of change, both large and small, knowable and unknowable. And one day, it will be a world in which I will leave behind an infinitesimal, almost insignificant portion of myself. My mark upon this planet. And no mark is too small not to count in the whole of time.