(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.
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.
They had Dad all dressed nicely, in a button-down shirt and khakis. Like…well, like everything was normal.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.
Happy birthday, Dad. Just know you are loved by many.