Sunday, February 23, 2014

Happy Birthday Dad

Dad as I'll always try to remember him, c. 1981
Today would have been my Dad's 84th birthday.  Unfortunately, his life was cut short by Alzheimer's and a negligent nursing home.  We'll see about the nursing home.  Prayerfully they can find something to stop that dread disease from claiming others as it has so many.  Nonetheless, I do miss him.  I missed him during those years of decline when, in so many ways, he ceased being the man I knew. 

True, once he had his heart attack in 1988, he was never the same.  They say that changes a person.  He changed then.  In some ways, for the better.  He loosened up, became more affectionate, a little more silly.  But also more temperamental.  More stubborn.  It was tougher to reason with him (not that he was ever known for just giving in).  

By the late 90s, however, something was clearly wrong.  We would visit from Louisville.  While there, we would tell old stories.  You know, the same ones over and over that families tell.  Nothing new there.  Each visit would see us retelling the same stories.  But suddenly, Dad began retelling the ones we had already told during that same visit.  Soon, he was repeating stories from the same day.

Then he began to make mistakes, or forget things that were important.  Sadly, we still didn't put it together.  My Grandma on my Mom's side had similar problems, and we just attributed it to old age, and a stroke that she had.  By the early 00s, Dad's diabetes began playing havoc, and he had several low sugar attacks. Anyone who's ever seen that knows what I'm talking about.  

From that point, it went down from there.  Unfortunately, my sister, whose husband (who recently passed away from cancer) was financially well off, was hit with sudden economic ruin.  Her husband's business partner did what too many business partners have done throughout the ages.  And, in fairness, he made some pretty bad (read: stupid) financial decisions.  By 2009,  they were forced to sell everything.  My parents, who had always lived near my sister, had to move several different times.  Anyone familiar with Alzheimer's knows that sort of constant upheaval is bad. 

My Mom, Dad and Sister and her husband moved down to where we are.  But things just fell apart.  My Mom couldn't watch him anymore.  We had to put him in a nursing home.  At first things went well.  For the first couple weeks.  But he was too far gone to stay in the part of the nursing home for self sufficient patients.  They moved him back to the high level care ward.  And then, within a couple weeks, he was gone.  Neglect mostly.  Not that he wouldn't have died.  But when we saw him just before he did, in soiled clothes, weight loss, dehydration, we knew he was being neglected.  We immediately began preparation to move him, but too late.  I saw him on Wednesday and realized he had to be moved.  By Sunday morning, April 3, 2011, after being rushed to the hospital on Friday morning, he was gone.  

I sometimes feel like we let him down.  For all he did for us, we just weren't there for him.  Still, there isn't much without hindsight to do differently.  I hate it now.  I miss him, and hate that his end came the way it did.  Naturally, the nursing home is part of a major corporation and we can't do a thing.  So all we can do at this point is remember.  Try to remember happier times.  Times before his passing.  Times before that wicked disease had stripped away everything that defined who my Dad was.  I know the Church teaches that suffering is just one of those things.  That's easier said than done.  The non-human initiated suffering of people has long since been the one fly in the theological ointment.  For all the thousands of years of contemplating, all we can ultimately says is some philosophical or academic version of 'let go and let God.'  Ultimate faith I guess. 

As for the rest of my blogging?  That is still in the works.  Our computer is still down, and our current financial conditions are such that getting it fixed or replaced is right behind that new yacht we've been looking for.  But I wasn't going to let Dad's birthday go by.  I've missed several milestones, and quite frankly, blogging itself is starting to lose a certain luster, one because of the nature of the blogosphere (including, alas, the Catholic blogosphere), and two, because of the change in my life's fortune, and the pretty solid sound of that door of ministry opportunity shutting in our diocese.  So where I'll be?  Can't say.  But I can say I miss you Dad.  Through  it all, I'd give anything to have you here to have just a final hug, a final goodbye, to hear you say once more to 'take care of those boys.'  I hope I do.  I hope, in the end, I'll do half as good a job of that as you did taking care of me.  Rest in peace, and may God's angels hasten you to be in His presence forever.