Friday, October 28, 2011

Holiday Time.

Well, we're coming up on the holidays again-I can't believe the end of the year is here again already! As always, it makes me think back to all the very different times I've spent with my family since becoming an adult. There have been good experiences and poor experiences-and even some very bad experiences, but I guess the important thing is...I'm still having experiences. Dad, of course, is not.

Dad used to really enjoy the holidays, especially when we were little. I think that Christmas was a very important time for him, deep down. Although there are many things I don't know about how he felt or thought, I do feel this, and I have reason to believe that all the events on the year's calendar were as important to him as to anyone else. He always seemed a little more loose and happy during these last months of the year.

After years and years of being the one who made the holidays happen for my family, I finally called a halt and decided to make the holidays for myself, and for my now-husband. It's exhausting, as so many caregivers (and many women!) know, to create these huge special experiences for family. It gets even harder when one has a chronic health condition. I know that, when he was able, Dad appreciated my efforts to make the holidays special, and that's all that's really important.

He really has no more concept of time or seasons passing, at least as far as I know, and will spend those particular days like every other day in his house. He has stepped off the wheel of shared experiences that make us a society, and I have to respect that.

I doubt I will spend time with him on the actual days, although I definitely will in the weeks before and after. It seems to me that there's nothing about those particular days that will matter any more than another; if I were to make a big deal about them, it would be more about my comfort than his. I'm just going to keep it low-key again this year, as I've discovered works the best for my little family. But I'm also aware that another year has wheeled slowly by without Dad, who will never have the fun of experiencing the holidays again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Visiting Before the Wedding.

We'll be leaving in the next few days for our wedding, and I felt a need to visit with the one parent I have left, even though he's no longer really present in the world. When I got to his home, he was snoozing in his chair, so I sat with him for a bit, quietly. I noticed that his face seemed even more pale, his eyes a little sunken, with dark circles. It was almost, but not quite, as if I could see his skull through his skin. He just looked more frail in general, and I wonder if he'll make it through the coming winter.

When he woke up, I knelt by his chair and looked him in the face. He seemed a little startled at first, and once again, I was pretty sure he didn't know who I was. It was nice to kneel there and talk to him while he watched my face, his eyes wandering periodically to stare down the hallway. On the whole, he seemed pretty alert, even responding to a few things I said with a, "Oh, that's good.", or, "That's nice". I think these have become stock phrases for him when he senses people might want a response, although I'm fairly certain he hasn't understood what's been said to him.

I told him about the wedding and my fiance, about our classic car, which had recently thrown a belt, about the weather and life in general. I promised we would visit him when we got back and bring him wedding pictures to see. It was just nice to see his blue eyes somewhat engaged again, his face even a little bit animated. It was almost like having a conversation! But most of all, it just felt right to spend some time with my Father before my wedding; to be with him. There is no more wisdom he can impart, no fatherly advice or counsel, but he's still my Dad, and it was nice to get even a semblance of a blessing for an event so important-an event that he'll never know took place.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Expanding and Contracting.

I've started writing down a few of the ideas I want to incorporate into my second book. the story definitely didn't end several years ago when the house was sold and Dad was settled into Assisted Living. As seems to be normal with my family, many more strange and interesting things have occurred, and will probably keep occurring until Dad sloughs off this mortal coil. My life is inextricably tied up with his, and will be until the end.

I've really been thinking about expanding and contracting as the main theme of my writing. Since the events of the book and after, my life has continued to expand and expand in the most wonderful ways. Granted, not all of them have been easy-continuing to learn how to care for and deal with a parent with dementia has not been fun, but it has been life-expanding. Meeting my fiance has expanded my life in exponential ways-he's brought me the world in a way I never expected I'd have it. But with all of this expansion and growth, I can't help but see my Dad's life continue to contract.

We had to move him from quite a large facility, to a five-patient Adult Family Home. This has been a really healthy move for him, but it did entail slimming his life and possessions down even more. My Dad now owns pretty much what's in his room. He doesn't work, of course, or do any of the activities he used to do-he doesn't really go out much, and his main visitor is me and I can't be there every week. Dad's life has shrunk down to his room, house, and caregiver, and that's just how it needs to be.

I feel sorry for the fact that Dad contracted this terrible disease that's done nothing but shrink him and his life-that's why I'm committed to giving him the best life I can. And I'm grateful that my life has continued to grow and change, largely based upon the foundation of everything I risked and learned taking care of him.