I have so many things to tell about my trip home (and a zillion photos) but I will start with the bittersweet/sad-happy bit to get it out of the way.
The main reason for going home recently was to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday. Five or six years ago, during one of my trips home, there was some doubt he’d reach this milestone when he was hospitalized with internal bleeding. He was very miserable and convinced he was going to die during this hospitalization. My mother was tired when she said: ” Well, if you’re going to die you’d better do it while Emjay is here. It would be really inconvenient for her to get back to America only to have to turn around and come back in a week or two.” I promised him then, if he’d just hold on, I would absolutely be home for his 80th.
Then this year he had a nasty fall, getting from his wheelchair to his bed, which ultimately saw him moved to a nursing home. So my father is now a founding member of this place – where you need a secret code, not shared with residents, to get in and out….
– one of only 9 residents and the only “high care” person. Eventually there will be 36 residents in this wing and there are plans for a couple more wings. Perhaps it will look a little less institutional once there is some greenery around….
Although my sister Jane tried to warn me, I was not prepared for how I found my father. He seemed so very lost – his “spark” was missing. It was my father’s wonderful wit and sense of the absurd that helped him through the many challenges associated with surviving a total stroke. For more than 25 years he had broached everything with humour but sometime in only 4 months of juggling amongst the hands of hospital and care “professionals” that humour, and so much more, was stolen from him.
He will not be going home to live again, a fact he has not fully accepted as he thinks he will be home in time for Christmas – this never going home again is something I’m also finding hard to deal with. I do hope though that once he sort of gets into the swing of his new routine some of my old dad returns – though maybe once you are in a soulless place where everyone talks to you as though you are in kindergarten you don’t feel the inclination to be anything at all. Perhaps all your energy is just put into getting through the day without having a tantrum.
A little sliver of my old dad shone through one morning – though in hindsight it might not really have been humour….. I was reading the newspaper to him when I noticed a lady in the doorway wriggling her fingers about in a slightly demented way “hello” I said. My father gave the doorway a quick glance and said “don’t encourage anyone; they’ll never leave“.
So … on the actual day of his 80th my mother, the manservant and I took a picnic lunch of his favourite foods to him in the nursing home:
My kids with their grandad – At some stage the “cook/waitress” lit the sparklers without telling anyone she was going to and then proceeded to sing “Happy Birthday” all by herself! By the time we got over there the sparklers were out and there was only one line left of the song to sing!Eventually poor old Max managed to get his electric chair close enough to stick the knife in which he did with some relish…He didn’t want any cake – just ice cream – but I think he got a bit of cake in his bowl anyway. None of us got ice-cream with our cake! Now this photo might give the impression that Jane and I are a couple of boozers – we certainly needed some alcohol to smooth out the day a bit – but if I was good at photo editing I’d whip that bottle away and that big white “splotch”. It was wonderful to see my father reach this milestone . It was a huge achievement on his part and entirely unexpected by the medical profession who first predicted he would not live 36 hours after the stroke and then revised that to say he would have a series of strokes and die within 12 months – he was only 54 then. It was fantastic to see that every member of his family was there to celebrate it even if at times he looked as though he was wondering what all the fuss was about. Dad, an only child, fathered 4 children who gave him 11 grandchildren. If he holds on another couple of years he might see a great grandchild.