Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Familiar and the Difficult.

It’s strange how people can just fade away if they’re forgotten. Looking around the senior rehab where my father is, there are lots of forgotten souls there. He shares a room with a man who communicates with thumbs-up or thumbs-down, who understands everything but who cannot speak. He continually tries to leave his bed, but his limbs are so twisted he can barely move. They have a mat on the side of his bed to catch him if he manages an escape. On the other side of my father’s bed is a man with no legs who lies and watches Spanish-language television all day. In the days we were there morning, noon and evening, not a single person came to visit them. Some seniors have single rooms that are decorated with furniture and pictures from home, one had a stereo blasting Journey while he lay in bed prostrate, staring at the stained ceiling tiles.

On the other end of the spectrum, there was a man named Tony who spent the entire day there. I thought at first he was a senior volunteer from the RSVP program or something, but it turns out he is the husband of a patient, and spends the whole day with her, but also contributes to the rehab, helping the nurses care for patients, feed them, clean up after them. He loves his wife so much he hardly spends any time at home. There is a married couple where the wife comes in dressed to the nines every day, and simply wheels her ever-silent, lost husband around, talks to him and feeds him. My mother can barely be convinced to bring my father clothes. It’s so strange indeed.

We went out and bought some clothes for Papa. This T-shirt seemed quite appropriate.
Left, my eldest sister Anna--right, my middle sister Helen. We all sport curls.

Some seniors are more engaged than others. They thought my dad was completely disengaged. He was combative and incoherent. He was withdrawn and morose. And then we got there; and the staff was astonished. He lit up. And with each passing day the fog of confusion and drugs took a back seat—he had a willing, invited audience of his three daughters… he could discuss his concerns with people willing to address them for him, he had new clothes brought to him, and a box of his favourite treats ferreted away for his enjoyment. He was healing—because of us. He was embarrassed by his state, and wanted out of there. I am working to bring him here to stay with me. I believe he deserves to enjoy his days being loved and fussed over; not sitting alone in a rehab with other abandoned souls. It’s not fair and it’s not right. Not when there are people who want him home and who love him.

We obviously found a few free moments to goof off.
Laughter was imperative. It kept us all from crumbling.

We didn’t get much time to visit. I lived in New England for twelve years—and I have a core of friends there that I would have loved to see; but I didn’t have time. The only time I had free was a two-hour lunch period on Monday where my sister and I left my dad to his physical therapy and we drove around some of my old haunting grounds to look at some very New England buildings and try to catch some early changing of the colours. The full foliage that the Northeast is famous for isn’t in full blaze yet… probably early to mid-October, but it was already well into a beautiful New England Indian Summer… crisp, dry, sunny, just beautiful. We stopped to have a nice lunch of lobster rolls and lobster bisque. I love lobster; but here in Oregon, it’s roundabout $21 a pound… frozen. I haven’t had lobster in years. So lobster was a pretty important objective on my selfish-list. So we hit a place I love, it’s called ‘Boston Chowda’—a little place in the town of North Andover. They sell chowder, naturally, but also offer a number of other soups including deliciously thick, lobstery lobster bisque. I am addicted to the bisque, it’s amazing. So we did the double-whammy, a cup of bisque and the lobster roll crammed with plump, juicy claw meat. Delicious. It was a special treat.

Some of the sights from my old stomping grounds:

The town of Methuen sports some lovely rock walls with sharp granite on top.
A whole neighborhood of these walls divide the properties from the sidewalk.

The Merrimack River spanned by the 125 bridge; separating Bradford from Haverhill.

This house makes me long for things antiquated.
The leaded glass and brick make me homesick. It overlooks the Merrimack River.
It is in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Large masonry churches... swoon. This was in Bradford, Massachusetts.

The Ayer Mill clock tower in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
It is attached to an old wool mill against the canal.

These old mill buildings are slowly being converted into high-end loft apartments.
We flew out on Tuesday. I had to get up at 1 AM Oregon time to catch our early flight out of Manchester. I got back into Portland at 10:40AM. I was never more delighted to see my mountain; Mount Hood, majestic and welcoming as our plane lined itself up over the Columbia and prepared itself for a smooth landing in Portland.

It was a hectic week. Painful. To say goodbye to my father was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do—especially when he reached out and brushed my face with his hand and told me he loved me. I nearly lost it. But I kept my tears fast—he didn’t need to know I was sad to see him so faded. I let those go last night, when I got home; I had a massive meltdown that soaked my pillow and Hubby’s shoulder. I wept out all my horrid fears and my sorrows. I feel spent and exhausted. I don’t want him to fade now that we’re gone. I want him to stay strong until I can get him here.

But I’m back now. Time to get back to life as usual. For now.


Lauren said...

I'm glad you had a nice visit. I hope you can bring your father home with you. That would be very nice.

A Day In the Life . . . said...

Unfortunately the stories you mentioned regarding the residents there are an all too familiar tale in regards to rehabs and nursing homes, and the elderly in general. One wants to be angry, when encountering such human loneliness and longing, but then again, I don't think our culture affords us the ability to deal with such issues. How that is true can take many avenues, but ultimately I think there is a story with every family. This explanation for human action does not make it right, however. Because it is not.
Thanks for sharing. Such stories always soften my heart and get me thinking.

elfkin said...

glad you are home and safe and The Daddy was renewed by your visit. Fingers crossed on moving him here.

beedeebabee♥ said...

Hi there!

I read about you over at Sweet Lisa's, and right away knew that I had to come by for a little visit!

Your latest post is very touching. I hope your dad will be able to come home with you soon.

Your artwork is wonderful. I love cute animals dressed in adorable outfits!

Paulette =D


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