Dad, It is a Wonderful Life

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Today begins with a drive through the wintry mountains. I arrive in Roosevelt at about 11am, wash the truck and head to the Villa where Mom is doing rehab from hip replacement surgery. My sister and her husband, who have taken the weekend shift, arrive with Dad at the same time and we make a smooth handoff. I'm grateful for such wonderful siblings and their families.

Dad and I go out for a burger while Mom eats her nutritional but not very appetizing meal. After a short drive up to Cedar View and down through Hancock Cove, we return and continue our visit with Mom. My sister returns from the store with a few things Mom needs. As we leave, and several times before, Dad asks Mom when she's coming home. She reassures him that it will only be a few days. I see the disappointment in his eyes. He misses her but he clearly wants what is best for her and says okay.

We make the drive home. Once inside I read the Book of Mormon to Dad. I'm in Alma. He listens intently for several chapters. Moroni and Pahoran overcome the Kingmen and defend the freedom of their people. But soon the long shadows begin to appear in the windows, and Dad is eager to go check on things up at the corrals which now lay empty. The horses and cows he cared for his entire life are gone, sent to those who can better care for them now, but in his mind they are still there and need to be cared for.

We jump in the truck and drive up and around. Then we drive down the road. Every house is new. So many people have moved in. At least for Dad. It is better and more comforting for him to enter his world, seeing it as best I can imagine how he sees it. Everything that looks remotely new was not here the last time. It really doesn't matter that they've been there for years.

Upon our return we gaze out at the harvested field of corn as the resident herd of deer bound down off the red rock hills into the field to feast on the remains of the corn. We count fifteen then go in the house and Dad asks me if I live here. He is pleasantly surprised and seems to accept it when I tell him this is his house.
Soon after that my brother brings yummy chili which his youngest son has made. The three of us eat and enjoy the classic Jimmy Stewart movie It's a Wonderful Life.

Tomorrow is a new day or the same day.

And that's not just okay, it's wonderful, because it will be another day with my dad, exploring his world and visiting my mom as she heals and prepares to come home.

It is a wonderful life!

Friday with Dad

The snow and fog this morning worry Dad. A few words of reassurance gets him through breakfast and the ride to see Mom. He is happy to see Mom and naps a little in the recliner in her room.

He asks her several times how she is doing and wants to know when she will come home. He is visibly happy to hear her words of reassurance.

Mom is doing well. We chat. She gets up and visits the toilet. We get her laptop up and running and connected to wifi. She is reconnected with her world of friends and family.

Dad and I go home. My nephew comes to relieve me. He's a good man. He will take care of Dad while I travel back to my home for the weekend. His dad, my older brother, will join him when he gets off work.

They watch over Dad tonight and tomorrow one of my my sisters and her husband will arrive to take the weekend.

See you Monday, Dad and Mom. I love you both!

Writing Advice From C. S. Lewis

Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose”.

In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible”, describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Thursday with Dad

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The sun hides behind the snow clouds this morning. The snow falls and piles up just a little making the world white. I grab a bite to eat and consider the day ahead.
On today's agenda, shower Dad and get him into clean underwear. This is a first for me. I approach it with some apprehension, but in a moment it's like I'm getting one of my little boys into the shower. Dad seems unfazed by my presence. I put shampoo on his head. When he's finished, I hand him a towel and help him dress. Then I comb his hair and he looks funny at it in the mirror, wets a comb and does it over again.

After breakfast we go see Mom. She's in the shower too. We wait. Dad is happy to see Mom. We stay a while and I make a ruckus to light a fire under some insurance people to get Mom over to the rehab center called the Villa. Eventually I give up, being told it's impossible. Lunch is brought in for Mom and Dad and I make our exit and head over to Arbys for lunch.

With a bit of roast beef in our bellies, we drive to the local furniture store and pick up a new chair for Mom that will make it a bit easier to get up and down once she comes home, which at this moment could be tomorrow, depending on the decision of the insurance company. Who says you and your doctors are in charge?
It's snowing and the furniture store wraps it in plastic and helps us load the chair into my pick up. We drive home slowly. The afternoon passes with some anxiety for Dad. The storm makes him anxious. There ought to be some critters to worry about and shelter and feed, but today there are none. He finds some comfort in sweeping the new inch of snow off the sidewalk. He works up an appetite for a PB&J which he does not eat at first until I convince him that I already ate mine. You see, he is more concerned that I have nothing to eat and he does not want to eat if I have not eaten.

Mom calls with the good news. I guess my complaining did some good. More likely it was God answering some prayers. The insurance company has approved her transfer to the Villa. She has dressed herself and is waiting transportation. She calls again once she is settled. They have her in a nice room and are taking great care of her. Dad is visibly relieved as I tell him, explaining again where Mom is and why and how she's doing very well and will be home soon. I never have tried counting how many times I've told him. It's just what you do.

Soon my brother arrives with another wonderful dinner made by his lovely wife. We bring the chair in, eat, and then set up the chair. Dad tries it out while we watch Danny Kay and Bing Crosby in White Christmas on Netflix. The anxieties flee, mostly, and another day is done. Sleep is it's own reward.

And tomorrow is another day, again.

Wednesday with Dad

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Dad slept well last night and all the way through 8:15 a.m. That was a blessing for him and me. I caught up on some work and got his breakfast and meds ready.
He emerged from his room dressed fully and ready for breakfast. We ate and shaved and drove to town to see Mom. It was a sweet visit. He was very concerned about her and grew teary eyed again as we left. I assured him that Mom would be okay.

We drove the long way home through Ballard and south and around through Myton. It allowed him to calm down and for a few hours I did a little work, but soon he was sitting next to me holding his wedding picture. He knew that it was him and his wife. We talked about how beautiful she was. He wanted to know where she was. As soon as I told him she was in the hospital, he wanted to jump up and go see her. He was instantly worried about her again. I reassured him that she is okay and that we would go visit her again soon.

By a little after noon, he was eager to go, so we headed out again and stopped at Burger King for lunch. After we finished eating, we drove to the hospital the long way around and found Mom with more visitors. She is doing great. And Dad was happy to see her again. She had saved her banana for him and at a smuggled chocolate protein ball instead. Dad at the banana and we lingered through several other visitors.

We made the long journey back through the halls of the one story hospital and out to the truck.

Once we were home, I tried to do a little more work, but eventually decided it would be best to throw in the towel on the work thing and take the rest of the week and next week as PTO. I'll work it out with my boss. My Dad and Mom are much more important.

At about 6 p.m. my brother brought another wonderful dinner made by his awesome wife and we're enjoying an evening of back to back episodes of Blue Bloods.
I'm thankful that I can be here. I would not trade this experience for the world. It is emotionally hard but it is so satisfying to spend time with my parents. They are truly worthy of honor.

I’m not biased or nuthin'.

Tomorrow is another day.

P.S. Dad spent some time in the spare bedroom today. I forgot to check and see what he was up to. I just now learned that he made my bed. He makes his own bed too. My theory is that he worked so hard on the farm for so many years, he aches to do something useful and often wanders the house or the yard looking for some way to contribute, to carry his weight. That's my Dad. I love him so.

Duty is an Honor -- Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

(A Letter from My Friend Jeff. Shared with his permission.)

Tyler,

Our parents – your father and my mother – live in a twilight. When I was told, “you can grow up to be anything,” I doubt very much if that voice of encouragement was thinking confined to a bed and thrice-weekly dialysis, or lost in a mere-world where memory fails and minds betray us. Yet, both of us bear witness.

We celebrate an invaluable life, even so. Not valueless, but quite the opposite: a life so full of value that we cannot calculate it in human terms. This is how God sees such life – so highly valued that only the life of God, sent as man, was its equal, and something not to be measured. God challenges us to see life the same way: of incalculable value and worthy of sacrifice.

Your service is duty, but it is honor, too. You honor your father and mother. That’s what we’re instructed. It doesn’t add: so long as it’s easy. Nor does it weigh the value to others of their lives. It only places the value on their position; their title.

Your duty to your father (and mother) is honorable. It demonstrates to your children and your siblings what you value. I know you would do this even if you had no siblings or children. It is why this act is honorable.

I feel such tugs of regret that I tried to bring my mom to Arizona only to have her reject my home and move back to Texas. She wanted to be close to her friends. (Her friends are all gone or dead themselves. Such is the curse of longevity.) Now I am 1,000 miles away and she cannot move further than a bed to a dialysis chair. And I cannot forsake my own family to tend to her.

I feel guilt and regret, but I would do nothing differently even if I’d known the outcome of all those decisions. (I left home and Texas for a reason. Those still stand after 45 years.)

Your dad is lost, mostly, and visits with his grace and wit occasionally. My mom is lost, mostly to time and distance. She visits thrice weekly between dialysis treatments. But sometimes she is lucid and sometimes she is not. I never know. It’s a turn of the card whether I’ll talk to my mom or somewhere and sometime where my mom used to live and used to  be. She’s hit and miss.

Some days she doesn’t even know what that sound – the one the phone makes – means. Some days all I can do is leave a loving message that her caretaker will play for her. She doesn’t know how to call out anymore. I only get a call from her if her caretaker makes the call and hands her the phone. Then she’s surprised it’s me.

It’s nice that you and your dad have a routine already. Get up, go see your mom in the hospital, come home. Go back in the afternoon, see your mom, come home. Family helps. Being independent helps.

But this is teaching you something. It’s actually sharing something with your mom and dad that you cannot share with words. The same is true for the rest of the family and the community. Sermons are never preached as well as they are lived. But how often will you find someone who actually thinks it through and says, “gee, I wish I could go through something horrible and dangerous so I could get that medal?”

And I’ll wager every man who got a medal wishes he could exchange it for a timeline where the battle never happened; where the crisis never occurred.  Medals are poor substitutes for calm and comfort and peace. But calm and comfort and peace cannot temper our spirits or hone our blades. And that’s what we really gain: a toughness where we were once soft and a tenderness where we were once hard. And we carry those medals on the inside, where we can use them.
You have no idea how hardship prepares us nor for what it prepares us. But we can be sure we train for a reason.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us... [Heb 12:1]

jeffy

Tuesday with Dad

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Two brothers wake up before 5 a.m. They greet one another and read scriptures. By happenstance, they're both in Alma. The older balder one goes off to work. I grab a shower before Dad wakes up, for the fourth time since he went to bed. I offer a silent prayer of gratitude that my brother took care of Dad during the night as he woke those three times.

I take a shower and catch up on some work items for a little while. Soon a light comes on in Dad's room. He's getting dressed. He has his shirt on. He has a light jacket on. He has his socks and boots on. The pants are on the bed. I help him take his boots off and put his pants on. This is a daily thing for Mom. I reflect again on her heroism.

Dad asks repeatedly, "What's going on?" I respond with a variety of short and vague answers and assure him that everything is okay. We eat breakfast. I do a little more work and then we drive to town to see Mom. Every few minutes I remind Dad that he is my dad and that we're going to see Mom, "his wife, you're my dad." He seems pleased to learn this. I explain that Mom had a hip replaced and is recovering in the hospital.

We arrive at the hospital. It is designed to make the journey to the patient's room the longest possible walk in the single story building. Dad shuffle walks and I step slowly to keep pace. We make our way down one hall and then another.

We enter Mom's room and greet her, making introductions and Dad's smiles and kisses his wife, glad to meet her today and know that he has a beautiful wife. He asks if she's getting better. She assures him that she is. We chat more and Dad decides it's time to go. We stop at the men's room on the way out, just like we did yesterday.

The day passes with more work from my Dad's house. A few phone calls and a nursing change and a peanut butter and honey sandwich for lunch come and go. A little more work on my computer and afternoon has rolled in. Dad is getting antsy and I ask if he'd like to go for a drive. He's eager to go. I ask him to wait a few more minutes while I finish up some work. An hour later and having repeated the "few minutes" delay several times, we drive out into the country north of Blue Bell and make our way into town in a very round about way.

We repeat our trek to Mom's room. It's a nice visit. After a while Dad is ready to go. He says goodbye and as we walk down the hall to the men's room again, he cries and I reassure him that his wife is going to be just fine. His tears are gone by the time we get to the bathroom.

We make our way home and toodle around the house, waiting for my brother to bring us dinner, cooked by his wonderful wife. Rice pilaf, green beans, pork chops. Yummy. And before we eat, I am testing my blood sugar and say, "I'll test my blood and then we can have a blessing on the food."

Dad immediately begins to pray. Miraculously his mouth is opened and he is able to express to God a beautiful plea for blessings on the food and my brother and I exchange a brief word afterward about how remarkable this is.

Now we pass the evening with one of Dad's favorite movies, Astronaut Farmer, a story of impossible dreams. The story makes no sense and yet tells us so much about what we need to know about living in a world that tells us what we can and cannot do.

Today was a good day. Hard but good.

Tomorrow is another day.

Monday with Dad

This is my dad. With this post, I begin a journey of caring for him while my mom undergoes and recovers from hip replacement surgery.

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To my great shame, I have spent only an hour or two at a time with my dad on each visit these last few years. The emotional toll of being with him as his brain has withdrawn into the mysts of Alzheimer's has been too much for me to bear and, like a coward, I have many times made a hasty retreat onto the road home to hide my tears from him and my mother.

The Lord has arranged for me an opportunity to repent of my weakness these next two weeks. Today my mother had a hip replaced. So I met her and one of my sisters early this morning at the hospital. Dad was with them and a bit confused, but I took him to his home. Fed him and watched over him today while I also did a bit of work over the Internet. I will repeat this during the week this week and next, relieved by my sister over the weekend.

I do not complain here. Caring for my dad is a blessing and a privilege, but it is nevertheless one of the hardest things I've ever faced. My mom is an absolute hero and has earned many times over the highest of praise, as has so many who have cared for a loved one with this cursed disease.

Today I began learning, only in a very small way, what my mom goes through every day with grace and aplomb that defies all explanation except through the eyes of the purest love.

In an tenderly acute way, one must learn to put a smile on one's face even as one's heart breaks. One must learn to respond with vague and positive replies to conversation that cannot be understood. One must learn to cajole and to distract gently, to offer alternatives and suggestions.

Dad is not gone entirely. He still catches rye humor sometimes. He bounces his confusion off his shoulders with a grimace and a grin. He shrugs off the oppression of thoughts which, once formed, race away faster than he can express them. And yet he can sometimes still offer the most poignant and sincere and nearly 100% coherent prayers.

No. Dad is not gone. He is mostly hidden from ours and his own view for now.

With extreme gratitude, I offer my deepest thanks to my older brother, who arrived just as I was running out of ideas of how to keep Dad from being restless and wanting to walk out into the night. He will stay with Dad at night while I sleep in the spare room. This is truly a job for two which makes my mom an even bigger hero than I've earlier stated.

Tomorrow is a new day.