wine on the keyboard

Dad’s 90th

by Kay~Kacey on 2/16/2016

(Probably an all too honest post. I apologize, kind of, in advance.)

90 years. That’s a lot of years. Dad had his 90th birthday this week. We had a party, of course.
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So much has changed in a year. Last year, Mom was there at Dad’s party, showing off her new room in the nursing home. Enjoying her grandbabies. Then, just a handful of days later, the doctor called me and said they were moving Mom to hospice. Then she was gone…

But we had the birthday party this year, in the same darn party room as last year.
It. Was. Hard.

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They had Dad all dressed nicely, in a button-down shirt and khakis. Like…well, like everything was normal.

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It’s not normal.

It’s not like those stupid commercials on TV where someone’s parent is kind of confused and the nice daughter gives her father some magic drug, hugs him, and everything is okay. It’s not like the brochures from all the Alzheimer’s nursing homes where everyone is smiles – no one screams, no one declines into a wheelchair, no one struggles to feed themselves, no one roams the halls all night, no one is lost and can’t find their room.

He struggles through each day. Some days kind of okay, some days horrible. Yet…it goes on.

But, for this day, his 90th, daughters, son-in-law, grandsons and wives, niece, and his sister-in-law, gathered to pretend everything was okay. Celebrate 90 years.

He was having a rare good couple of hours, which I was so thankful for.

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Since I’m usually taking the photos, I’m usually not in them, but this year, my brother-in-law took some with me actually in them. I’ll treasure them. Karl, thank you so much for capturing these for me. I look at this photo, and can almost imagine he’s not trapped in the nightmare that is his life now. For this brief moment in time, he’s still my Dad, the patriarch, the strong man who was always there for me. The man who knew my name…

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Dad recognized his brother’s wife, my Aunt Carol. So glad she could come. None of his friends visit him anymore. Alzheimer’s does that to friendships.

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Here he is with his women. My sister, my niece who is a caretaker for him daily at the nursing home, and me. We all love this man fiercely.

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My boys were there too…but somehow, i have no photos of them. I was just trying to get through the day. One step at a time.

After the party, I took Dad back to his room and got him settled in, then went back to the dining room and said goodbye to my boys. I went back to Dad’s room again to say goodbye, and he was fast asleep. I kissed him goodbye and it woke him up. He smiled and say hi like it was the first time he’d seen me that day.

I said “You had a really great birthday.”
“Birthday?
“Yes, you’re 90. You had a great party.”
He said. “I did?”
“You did, Dad. The boys were in. Cheri and Karl were here. Aunt Carol. Chris. You got presents. We had your favorite pizza. You had cake.”
“Sounds fun.”

I told him he was the best father ever, and he drifted off to sleep.

I cried all the way home to Columbia. Alzheimer’s sucks.

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Happy birthday, Dad. Just know you are loved by many.

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World Alzheimer’s Day

by Kay~Kacey on 9/21/2015

I haven’t blogged in forever. It was just too hard to, I don’t know, share. To be honest, I didn’t want the photos of Mom to fall off the last post to my blog. But, I turn now to a tribute to my father. A man suffering greatly from the horrible disease of Alzheimer’s.

He was the kindest man. Honest to a fault. Strong in his faith. A wicked, dry sense of humor. He gave of his time and his money–quietly, behind the scenes — because he believed it was the right thing to do. He was brilliant–and down to earth.

Now, he’s…lost. He no longer has Mom as his touchstone to keep him grounded. He’s often agitated, and I fear some of the workers at his nursing home just see him as the crotchety old patient, not the man behind the disease.

But, Dad, we still see you. The man who is still there, somewhere, hidden behind the cruelty of fate. We visit and bring your favorite donuts. Though I’m sure ten seconds after we left you yesterday, you had no idea we had been there with you.

Family

But, I love you fiercely and forever, Dad. You are not this disease. I will drive in every week to visit, and talk to you about your life and family. We’ll look at photos and take walks. I’ll bribe you to eat with your favorite foods. I’ll walk down those damn halls of the nursing home, week and after week. The halls that make me weak in the knees as I enter them each visit, ranting to the universe about the unfairness that is your life now.

Blank look of Alzheimer's

And I thank God for my cousin. Chris the Girl. The daily constant in Dad’s life. The caretaker who goes to visit Dad every day and keeps him connected to life as much as possible. I don’t know what I would do without her being there when I can’t.

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It’s been a long, hard battle to this point. Sometimes my sister and I have to play “tag, you’re it” and take a break. It is stressful. Impossible. Yet, no one has a choice. Not Dad. Not us.

But this is how I think of him, still. Laughing. Cracking jokes.

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Or teasing my mother.

Dad and Mom

That is my father. The real man. The man behind the Alzheimer’s mask.

#freepoppy

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An 89th Birthday Party

by Kay~Kacey on 2/16/2015

Ah, such a bittersweet day it was yesterday. Dad’s 89th birthday. Rare moments of following along with the conversation. Lots of quiet moments. Please indulge me the over abundance of photos. Love this man.Dad with Alzheimer's

 

Notice my mom’s newly painted fingernails in this next photos. I love that she is still vain enough at 88 to want her nails to look pretty all the time.Mom's new polish

 

My parents sat quietly a lot of the time. Mom just listening to the chatter of her kids and grandkids, Dad kind of lost in his own world with so much going on around him. My boys. I love them so much for coming out to Dad’s party. Doting on Mom. Telling her how nice her new room at the nursing home is. (She loved showing off her room to everyone) Talking to Dad. Hugging him. I have so much love for these boys and their wives, it makes my heart burst. birthday celebration

 

Dad is so quiet most of the time. Often, I’m not sure what he is taking in. What he hears and processes. Is he scared in his confusion?quiet haze of alzheimer's

 

He does better with one on one conversations, like here where Michael was trying to get Dad to start eating his cake. I’m pretty sure Dad had forgotten his piece of cake was there in front of him.grandfather and grandson

 

Mom, bless her heart, enjoyed a little sip of winey with her meal. She still enjoys her wine… That–strangely– makes me feel better about her…mom and her glass of wine

 

This photo melts my heart. My dad laughing at the card the boys got for him. It was a card that kept unfolding until it became poster sized. It just tickled my dad.A rare smile

 

Ah, that rare, rare Alzheimer’s smile. Nothing better in the world.laughing at the card

 

Below, he is looking at the photo book that we made him from scanned photos and slides that I found at their house. Photos of when he was growing up in Adair, Iowa. Trips he took with his parents. Photos of him in the Navy. Photos from when he was first married to Mom.

Here he is looking at the front photo on the book…a picture of the house he grew up in. “Hey, I know that place.” See the smile and recognition on his face?

reading the memory book

I am enthralled with his hands here. I don’t know why. Here Dad is looking at a photo of his father.

Dad's hands

 

If only we could have more moments of his smile. His recognition. The spark of life in his eyes. Ah, Alzheimer’s, you are a mean, mean beast and I hate what you’ve done to this kind, gentle man.

Happy 89th birthday, Dad. Not the life we had imagined for you for your “golden” years. So glad to still see your smile.

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