True Love Transcends Mortal Memory

dadnmomToday I employ a new strategy with Dad. My brother and I rise early and chat a moment. Dad has slept most of the night but did get up in the middle and was awake for about an hour before he climbed back into bed. I whisper a prayer of gratitude that my brother has sacrificed his sleep while I enjoyed a full night of blissful dreams.

Despite the lost sleep, Dad is up and getting dressed by about 7:00 a.m. and ready for breakfast about 30 minutes later. The first thing he says to me as I greet him in the kitchen is, "I gotta go home and get my wife." I hug him and reassure him that we will go see her after breakfast and that she will come home tomorrow.
He's eager to see her and very happy to hear that. We eat the same breakfast we had yesterday and 20 minutes later head out to see Mom before she goes to PT today.

When we arrive, Mom is in the bathroom. We wait, Dad in the recliner and me in the straight back chair. In a few minutes Mom emerges from the bathroom with a smile on her face and a warm greeting for us both. She looks good.

Dad rises from his chair as quickly as he can. He pushes past me to get to Mom. He wants to help her get back to the bed. He kisses her and beckons to the bed. He could not be happier to see her. Once she is back in bed resting, Dad sits and relaxes, returning to his primary line of questioning in broken phrases. The meaning is clear. He wants to know when Mom will come home.

Mom holds his hand and pats his arm, assuring Dad that she will be coming home tomorrow. He asks in his own way why she cannot come home now. He is jovial about it and accepts that she must stay one more night. I can see the satisfaction on his face that the one person most familiar to him in this life will soon be coming back home.

I look away and then excuse myself to go find a restroom to give them a moment of privacy they have not really had for more than 10 days. We stay a little longer until the physical therapist arrives. We make our exit and I reassure Dad that we will return later today for another visit. He is reluctant to go but after a lingering moment, he follows me out to the truck.

We get home and like manna from heaven, Dad is able to sit in Mom's new chair and sleep for more than two hours. By noon he is rested and ready for a peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich. I add too much jam and Dad winds up with sticky fingers, a puzzle to solve after we finish eating. Eventually he ends up in the bathroom washing his hands but it takes a while for him to come to this solution. I have learned to make a soft suggestion but when it is rejected out of confusion, it is better to wait and let him work it out.

A little more resting from a full tummy and Dad is ready to go again. He puts on his old work hat and jacket, readying himself to go wander through the garage which doubles as his farm workshop. All his tools are there and while he no longer knows what to do with them, he seems to derive some comfort from looking at them.

This time I head him off at the pass with an even better offer. I tell Dad that if he will wait for a few minutes, I will be ready to take him back to town to visit Mom again. Who, he asks. Your wife, I tell him; my Mom. Oh, okay, he says, and takes a seat in the front room waiting patiently on the sofa. I finish with some email and a little more delay and then we go, but only after I ask if he would like to wear his nice hat and coat to go see his wife. He readily agrees and changes into his nice denim coat and gray felt cowboy hat.

We arrive and he greets Mom, happy again to see her and just as happy to learn again that she will be coming home tomorrow. We enjoy seeing an old family friend named Don. He is out walking and recuperating from an illness there. He is now 88 years old, hunched over deeply and dependent on oxygen, but he is happy to see us. Dad remembers him at least in that he knows this man is special to him and he greets him with a warm handshake and a smile in his eyes that mask any confusion in his memory about who exactly this man is. To Dad that part is not important. What he remembers is his love for this man. No other details are important.

Don leaves and we continue to visit with Mom. Eventually the same occupational therapist who was walking with Don returns to Mom's room, ready to take her to do her last OT session this week. Dad is again reluctant to leave. He tells the OT guy to take good care of her. He gives her a kiss goodbye. And I see much more deeply that same look of love and concern for Mom that he had minutes earlier extended to their old friend Don.

For the second time today we leave, but it takes longer and more encouragement from me to get Dad to walk out of Mom's room. He clearly does not really want to go. He definitely does not want to leave her there again. He is not belligerent about it, but he delays as best he can before eventually accepting that he must wait one more day.

The walk out to the truck feels longer and slower this time. I feel acutely in my soul the love that Dad has for Mom. It does not matter that his memory cannot tell him who she is all of the time. It does not matter that he does not know that she is both his wife and my mother. He is always pleased to be told these things. Dad's love for Mom transcends mortal memory. It is a true and eternal love.

Today was a great day!

Tomorrow will be even better.

To the Temple with Dad


Sleep flees before dawn and my brother and I arise to greet one another. Dad has had a restless night and has been up several times including just minutes ago. The morning arrives soon. My brother leaves and comes back a short time later. I hear him talking with Dad. He is up early. I finish my reading and then peek into the living room. Dad rests in Mom's new chair sleeping.

I sneak into the shower and finish dressing as he wakes. We wave and say, "Good morning." There is a smile on his face. Dad is always happy to greet everyone. It is a mark of his true character. We sit a while and enjoy one another's company. Dad comments on the boots missing from my feet as I put on my socks. I tease him by pointing out that his boots are also missing. He is also missing a hearing aid. A brief search finds it on the floor near his dresser.

Breakfast is a bowl of mini frosted wheat for Dad and granola and yogurt for me. We both take our pills and begin a daily ritual of delay. Dad wants to go now. It's a bit too early. So I say, "I'll be ready in a few minutes." He wanders around the house looking for something. He finds his belt and puts it on.

After a few delays, we pack our kit--some water and protein balls--and don our coats. The air is crisp and it takes a mile or two for the truck to warm up enough to take the chill off. We're on our way to Vernal.

In Vernal we shop at Walmart for almonds, cheese and sugar free drinks with a touch of lime which Dad seems to enjoy very much. Dad's slow shuffle makes for a longer than ordinary trek through the house of worldly goods. I honestly enjoy it. We drive over to see the Vernal temple and go slowly past it. We comment on how beautiful it looks. I know Dad loves the temple even though he is now unable to attend. When this portion of his life is over, he will surely be of service on the other side of the veil. Of that I have no doubt.

We meander on back to the Villa to visit Mom the long way via Neola and Dad remarks on many of the "new" houses and says often, "I have never been here before," or, "I have not been here in a long time." I always respond affirmatively and reassure him. Soon we're visiting Mom and she looks very good today. Better than yesterday. She comforts Dad and assures him that she will be home in two days. She has already spoken with the doctor and the physical therapist. They had been thinking of Saturday but she has convinced them to let her go home on Friday afternoon. Again and again she assures Dad, every time he asks, with angelic and practiced patience. Every time he is relieved and glad to hear it.

We say our goodbyes and grab a burger on our way home.  The afternoon is passed with increasing fretting over many things and nothing. Dad looks for things and finds nothing. He looks in the closet and the bedroom. He fiddles with this and that and sits sometimes with me. Most tellingly he asks me several times in his own way if his wife is coming home. Though he cannot express it adequately, it is obvious that he misses Mom very much.

At one point, he is picking up the house phone and trying to dial it. This is something he is no longer really able to do. I ask him if he is trying to call his wife. He says yes. I offer to help and call her on my mobile. He speaks to her briefly on speaker and she knows exactly how to reassure him and he is so very happy to talk with her for just a few moments.

My brother arrives with dinner. With some nourishment and another familiar face, Dad is at peace and will be ready for bed soon. He struggles to converse with his boys and cannot really do so effectively. There are bits and fragments and we offer reassurance as best we can and encourage him to go to bed.
He is tired and needs some rest. Tomorrow I will try to get him to sleep more and rest up for Mom's return on Friday.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Cottonwood Reservoir with Dad


The alarm rings at ten minutes to five this morning, just ten minutes after my fast running biological clock wakes me up. I roll out of bed, spend a few minutes talking with God and then my brother who is reading scriptures at the dining room table, as is his habit. Next is my favorite time of the day. First a chapter or two in the Book of Mormon and then the same in the New Testament.

I think back to Sunday's priesthood meeting. The question is how can we best deal with the trials we face each day. No hands go up immediately. I offer this thought. Get up an hour or two before you must face the trials of the day. Spend time on your knees in prayer. Then spend time reading scriptures. It is the only formula I know that works.

Dad wakes at little before eight o'clock. He gets dressed and ready for the day. This takes some time. I note that he spends considerable time deciding what to do, how to dress, which article of clothing comes first. My inclination is to rush in and do it for him. Watching him struggle through something we all take for granted and never give a second thought is harder than helping. I feel it in my heart that I should sit on my hands and let him come to the answers on his own.

Mom plans to work out with physical therapy this morning before showering, so our plan is to arrive around eleven o'clock. We have time for a drive. I have spied an 80 acre parcel in Gusher for sale. It is a destination as good as any. We wind up driving two or three miles through a sand and sage track from the Gusher turnoff to Cottonwood Reservoir.

Dad and I agree that we have never been there. The dark water and the rushing sound of the stream running into it against the red sands and stone with the cold blue skies of a sunny winter day paint both of our faces with pleasure at the sight of such beauty.

We find the main road and make our way toward Vernal. A whisper in my mind tells me to turn around and head for the Villa to see Mom. We go up the hill east of Lapoint, turn around and head back to Roosevelt. Mom is glad to see us. We visit and eventually lunch is served which is our cue to make our exit and find an Arby's roast beef sandwich.

Today was a good day. It ends with a nap for both of us, leftovers with Dad and my brother sitting at the table. My mind is drawn to the blue cold waters of the Cottonwood Reservoir. There is peace in the babbling noise of the water running in. Listen and you will hear it.

The same is true of that still, small voice of the Holy Ghost. He will speak peace to your mind and fill your soul with love and appreciation for all of God's creations.

Tomorrow is a new day.

It's going to be great!

Dad, It is a Wonderful Life


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!

Thursday with Dad


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


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.)


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]