Thursday, December 16, 2010

Diary of a Mad Caregiver

(WARNING: This could take awhile!)

5:00 am
Dad calls. I am startled from a deep sleep. Go to his bedside. He's sitting on the pot.
"I need a pain pill."
What's going on?
I'm sleeping.
Okay, go back to bed. But at 10:00 I want breakfast - crispy bacon, two fried eggs, English muffin, juice and coffee.

6:00 am.
Dad calls.
What's going on?
I'm sleeping.
I want breakfast at 10 am.

10:04 am.
I am dreaming that my father has fallen off the toilet and everything in the room is on top of him.
Dad calls.
What's going on?
I'm sleeping.
Didn't I ask for breakfast?
Are we going to see the gingerbread houses today?
Well let's get moving.
Enough said. My sister and I swing into action. She starts the bacon. I help Dad get dressed.
The man who called his family to sit around his bed yesterday to watch him die is alive and well today. He is dressed, shaved and raring to go in 23 minutes.

Dad is still eating breakfast.
Hey, Dad are we going to go?
As soon as I finish my coffee.

Hey Dad, if we're going to go, shouldn't you use the bathroom first.
Good idea. I'll go when I finish my coffee.

Without giving way more information than anyone needs, I've decided my Dad is close to winning a Guinness Book of World Records Award for toilet sitting. In any contest, I feel sure he'd win. I've learned he does not like to be rushed. He gets a little nasty if asked more than 10 times why he's still sitting there. He'll get up when he's ready. My job is to stand by. I've learned to use the time to do just about anything but stand by and wait.

We pile into the car.
I get out of the car and get Dad's money.
I get in the car and get my seatbelt on.
I get out of the car to get Dad a pain pill.
I get in the car, slam the door a little harder than might be necessary.
First stop, MacDonalds for 2 cold cokes and 1 hot coffee. We pull into a parking place so Dad can take the pills.

We pull into the church parking lot. I check to make sure we are in the right place.
I go back to the car and get Dad's money.
I go into the church and buy our tickets.
I go back to the car where Dad is enjoying his coffee. He would like to sit there and enjoy our company and talk some.
We sit. Jo checks clears her phone of old calls. Dad drinks his coffee and remarks what a pretty day it is. I begin to get antsy.
I get out of the car and take some pictures.
I get back in the car and look at the pictures. Jo looks at her pictures. Dad drinks coffee.
Are you ready to go inside?
Not yet. Be patient with me.

After 2:00
Let's go see those gingerbread houses.
We walk in what used to be one of the oldest Episcopal Churches in Jax. It was deconsecrated in 1957. The smell of gingerbread permeates the air. Dad wants to maneuver his own wheelchair which makes me very nervous. Gingerbread houses are quite fragile. It would only take a slight hit of a wheelchair against a table leg to cause a mini-disaster.

What's 8 inches got to do with anything?
It's not 8 inches. It's the 8th annual gingerbread contest.

A few houses later:
Tell me again what the 8in. has to do with anything.
It's not 8 inches. It's the 8th annual gingerbread contest.

We go around the room. Dad is very impressed. Jo is taking pictures. I'm still worried about knocking over the prize winning gingerbread house that undoubtedly took several woman hours to create.
We discover an exhibit sponsored by ReynoldsSmith&Hills Engineering firm. The company where Dad worked after he retired from the Navy. It was called the Santa Shuttle. It depicted a space shuttle rocket on the SaturnLaunchingUmbilicalTower (SLUT) that Dad built, two gingerbread astronauts, Santa on a gingerbread shuttle being drawn by 8 tiny reindeer. We ask someone to take out picture. Dad's wheelchair gets perilously close to the table edge. I hold my breath as the SLUT begins to wobble as if the number 2 engines have begun to burn.

Eventually we have had our fill of gingerbread. We decide we're hungry. We head for someplace to eat a late 3:30ish lunch. Where else but Panera's?

After putting our soup on the table and getting dad situated I head for the ladies room.
Dad decides he has to go too. In all the time I've cared for Dad this problem has not come up. Do I take him into the men's room or does he accompany into the lady's room? I opt for getting him into the handicap stall in the lady's room. I help him to the toilet, then step outside the stall and wait.
And wait.
And wait.
How you doing in there?
Do you need help.
I wait some more.
My sister comes in, does her business, washes her hands and leaves.
Another lady comes in to wash her hands.
Another lady comes in to use the bathroom.
I stand guard at the door like the Marine Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I try to make the most of a strange situation. I concentrate on the Christmas music playing over the loudspeaker. It's not a song I recognize.
How ya doing?
I'm fine.
The first lady comes back in to wash her hands. I'm beginning to lose patience. It's only a matter of time before I wet my pants or blow my top or both.
Is there any paper in here?
Oh God.
I need some help getting up. Don't pull me. Move the chair.
As soon as he's out of the way, I take my turn on the toilet which he has nicely warmed for me.

Several long minutes later we sit in front of our cold soup. I eat ravenously. Dad has trouble swallowing the french bread. He sucks the life out of it to make it soft enough to go down. He barely touches the soup. Like eating with a toddler, the meal drags on long after I am through eating. I get more bread for my sister and I.

Eventually he has eaten all he can.
Did you get an oatmeal cookie?
No, I forgot.
Well, get two.
To take with us?
No, I want to eat it here.
I break off a piece of the cookie and crawl back into the booth wondering if I could take a little nap.

At long last, we make it home. Dad gets into his recliner and falls into a deep sleep.

The rest of the night is not uneventful, but too long to narrate. Let me just say this. I discovered my favorite Christmas movie on TV - White Christmas - and got most of the way through several Bing Crosby songs and much corny Danny Kaye acting before Dad finished his nighttime toilette.

Before closing his eyes, Dad asks in all seriousness, where are we going tomorrow?
Oh, God, I mumble selfishly under my breath.

I'm one tired and not so merry,
Merry ME

1 comment:

Molly said...

Love the photo of you 3, and what a surprise to find your dad had a SLUT in his past...AND that same SLUT was rendered in gingerbread and icing in a church.