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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Through The Hoop

Well, it has been almost a month now since my Dad went into the care facility. I thought I'd provide a little update to those of you who have made mention of reading this blog. I am actually in Richmond where my folks live at the moment, on my regular monthly visit to help out. Today I went to visit my Dad by myself, and had some enlightening moments of conversation with him. First of all, he is doing well. When he first moved there, he was rooming with a fellow named Hugh. Well, Hugh is a very sweet old guy, but he likes to wear a full suit to bed at night! So my Dad would have to watch Hugh go through his ritual of getting his shirt and tie on, followed by the suit pants and jacket, socks and yes, even shoes...every night! One of the first times I went to visit Dad when he was with Hugh, I found all kinds of Dad's things mixed in with Hugh's things. It was hard to say if it was one or the other of them getting mixed up as to where things should go. I would call Dad and ask "So how is Hugh?" and he would tell me "Well, every night he wears his suit to bed...he's a little off his whacker, you know," and tell me all about it as if for the first time :-) Eventually, the staff thought that Dad would do better with another fellow named John, so they moved him to that room. My Dad's name is also John, so the staff decided to call my Dad Jack (being as Jackson is his last name). I'm sure my Dad found it confusing at first to be called Jack...life is confusing enough with dementia! What the heck did we have for breakfast again??? Who is Jack and why do you keep calling me that??? But Dad and John took to each other immediately. I met John once, and he was a real sweetheart. He was 92, and had a bad heart so he wasn't feeling all too well most of the time. And unfortunately, only about a week after they started rooming together, John was taken to hospital and died of heart failure. Poor Dad. He was pretty devastated. When John's family came to take away his belongings, they gave Dad his nice watch. This was a very sweet and generous thing to do, and I think they knew how much John and my Dad had enjoyed each other in those last days. All the reports I've had are that Dad takes part in just about every activity. He's never played Bingo, never participated in Yoga or water colour painting in his life. But he does now! He joins up with just about every activity they provide. The nurses all like him...he's one of the few who can actually talk and bestow his charms upon whoever he comes into contact with. I'm sure he tells them the same stories over and over, but they are a caring and friendly staff and he enjoys them. I try to call every couple of days. He doesn't have a phone in his room yet, so I have to bother the nursing staff to fetch him so we can talk for a few minutes. He always sounds cheerful and happy to hear from me, and even though he can't remember what he did that day, I know from the reports from everyone else that he is very much involved in whatever he can do. So I'm happy now that he has settled in. Today when I went to visit him I found him in the TV room. Most of the people there were in wheelchairs, pretty much out of it, either asleep or in a dementia daze. There was a lovely old Chinese woman sitting beside Dad and I think they were chatting a little. I came up and he looked at me as if he was surprised to see me. Well, he's always surprised to see me even when I tell him I'm coming :-) We walked arm in arm to a lovely garden that is part of the complex. He hasn't had much of a chance to enjoy the garden yet because the weather has been cool and damp since he's been there. But today it was lovely and sunny and warm. We walked to the gazebo and sat in the big wicker chairs and chatted. And I asked him "So Dad, how are you doing here?" And he said "Well, I think I have adjusted to it." "Good, I'm happy to hear that." I said. "You know..." he went on, "when I first got here I wanted to get the heck out." I was surprised at his candor. "But now I feel comfortable and I'm doing okay." He would never have admitted his discomfort at the time, I know that about him. And I'm almost sorry to know he felt that way. But on the other hand, if he had said something I would have felt even more horrible about leaving him there. And now that has passed, and he has become accustomed to his new living arrangements...and it doesn't matter anymore. I worry when I leave him that he might be a little sad. But today, we passed the activity room as I was about to leave, and he decided to join in with them. They were playing basketball. Well, basketball for a bunch of elderly and incapacitated people means a hoop sitting on the floor, and everyone in a wheelchair or a chair being given the ball to throw in. Immediately one of the staff helped Dad to a chair...."we need you on this team!" she said. She gave him the ball. He had three chances to throw it in. My Dad always considered himself "uncoordinated". He couldn't dance. Well, he could, but it sure wasn't pretty. A leg would go up in some kind of strange kick, arch position...it was mostly hopping. He wouldn't participate in sports or anything like that...he was one of those kids who would have been the last to be picked for the team. But today, he confidently took the ball and held it to his eye, staring down the hoop in the centre of the room. I held my breath. The room got quiet. He took aim, and then threw it. And he got it in. Everyone applauded, "good for you!". He was handed the ball again...and he got it in a second time. More applause. Third time, he again took his slow aim, and got it in. As the last applause rang out, I decided it was a good time to go. He had long forgotten that I was there anyway, and I had a big smile on my face watching my Dad get the ball in the hoop three times, just as if he was my child accomplishing something for the first time. Funny how life works out, isn't it?