Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dad: Sweet Story and an Angry Rant

I've been dreaming about my mom a lot lately.  She's been gone from this world for over 13 years now.  I don't know if it's the undying desire that so many of us have when we are sick and in need or not.  That desire...yes, I'll admit it...that I would still like to have my mother take care of me. 

When I am changing bandages and dealing with very personal healthcare issues, I know that there is no one (other than my husband - and maybe not even him) who I would like helping me more than my mom.  Maybe it's just that mother-daughter connection, but, in my mind, no one would have the tender touch, the patience, and know what to say better than my mom.  Will I ever think otherwise?  I don't think so.  I expect, even when I'm very old, hobbling around at the nursing home and in need of physical assistance, I will wish for my mom.  Is that a legacy good mothers leave for their children?  Maybe so. 

This is not to insinuate that I am helpless or fall apart when I feel ill.  On the contrary, I've always been perfectly capable of, and insisted on, taking care of myself...often to a fault.  There just remains an underlying desire for that person who was my original caretaker.  The person who made sure everything was okay, I was comfortable, well fed, and had everything I needed.  I always knew she would make everything better.  So yes, there have been many times over the years where I've longed for Mom. 

I think the first time I really became aware of how much my mother's care meant to me was when I was in college, 2 states away from home, and became ill.  I doctored myself because I had no other choice, but I still remember feeling like I wanted my mama (and feeling silly because of it).   I never thought that would be something I would continue to think about so many years later, yet here I am.

Dad...probably telling one of his
countless stories.
He has some good ones.
So, if I am going to go on and on about my mom, then why, you may ask, is the title of this post "Dad".  Let's just say I'm working through that and hope to make sense of it by the end of this writing.  Remember, I'm writing this for a number of reasons, one of them being that I was told it would be "therapeutic".  And it is.  So, if I want to write about my dad, I had to begin by writing about my recent thoughts of Mom.  You see, those two go together.  He has been lost without her for over 13 years now. 

Just as she loved serving me and making me feel better, she did the same for my dad.  Dad's health has gone downhill considerably in the past months.  If Mom were still here, we all know that would not be the case.  She would have kept his mind and body active, as opposed to his choice of slowly letting things go since she's been gone...volunteer work, recreational activities, church activities, and church attendance have all gone by the wayside.  He has decided that if he can't do those activities with Mom, then those activities aren't worth doing.  Because of this, he has gradually become weaker, and thus more and more physically dependant on others.  And because of this, he now has a wonderful caretaker who spends each day with him, making sure he has his medication, is well fed, and remains somewhat active.  

Vickie joined our family as Dad's caretaker not long before I left for China.  I don't know if I could have gone without knowing she was with him.  I remember preparing for the trip and praying that Dad would still be here when I returned.  He kept telling me he would not...and that it would be a good thing. 

Things have changed for the better in the past months, though, thanks to Vickie.  His medication has been monitored and more carefully administered, which has helped his low moods, irrational behavior, loss of attention span and, with new medication, even improved his memory.  Vickie has been a gift from God.  She and Dad have bonded and we can think of no one else we would trust with him as much as we do Vickie.  To Dad, she is like a daughter.  We have seen some of his old self coming out in the past few weeks, which has been such a blessing, especially in light of my current medical issues. 

It has been a blessing not to be so totally consumed with taking care of Dad.  Between Vickie on weekdays and me on weekends and some evenings, Dad has been doing great.  Though my weekday/weekend visits are currently interrupted, Dad has been very understanding and concerned about me.  He is patiently waiting for my healing, as am I.  And, I admit, it also helps to have a wonderful husband who doesn't mind checking in on him. 

One nice thing lately, something we've been wanting him to do for years, is that he has reached the point of desiring and acquiring a dog.  An inside dog, no less.  An inside dog named Gizmo that he allows to sleep in his bed!  My mom would be so proud (after she checked to make sure he was really my dad).

So, to get a call today that he had fallen and was in the ER with Vickie was upsetting, to say the least.  I know a lot of this upset had to do with the fact that I am feeling, at the moment, pretty worthless.  Helpless and dependant and stuck at home with my staples and my drain and my sore body. 

Here is the scoop: It seems when Vickie came into his house this morning, the first thing she saw were bloody towels on the floor.  She ran into the kitchen to find him sitting in a chair with a bloody gash on the top of his head.  He could not remember what had happened.  He had already made coffee and, with a little homegrown CSI work, the guess is that he had prepared something to eat, attempted to return to the table with his food on the seat of his walker, spilled the food, either slipped on the spilled food or fell when trying to clean up the spill, and hit his head on the corner of a wooden cabinet.  He would've had to go over head first, from where the gash was.  My brother said it looked like a CSI crime scene, with blood everywhere.  Vickie must have been terrified.  We are thanking God for her tonight...and every night.

The hospital turned into a whole 'nother nightmare.  They did run a few tests on Dad...scans, MRI, and whatnot, to make sure there were no broken bones or blood clots.  But, apparently, they kept Dad there for hours without his medication (he had not taken his meds last night or this morning - could've been part of the falling problem), without food (he is diabetic), without help in hygiene needs, laid out on a small and uncomfortable ER bed on which he is too tall to be anything but miserable.  According to my brother, Jay, it was almost surreal how bad the service was. They were insisting that Dad needed to stay at least a night or two, but doing nothing about it.  They refused to feed him, due to any further testing they might want to do.  Dad finally threw an angry fit (low blood sugar does that to him) and they gave in and brought him a sandwich.  I have no idea why they wouldn't give him medication.   

Jay said they only had one encounter of good bedside manners and helpfulness all day (by a young orderly - no doctor or nurse).  Jay finally decided that the safest thing to do was to get Dad out of there.  At that point, he said it was like trying to get away from a pushy car salesman.  As in, "what can we do to get you in this hospital tonight?"  They were even threatened with insurance not paying since they had refused treatment.  Refused treatment?  Seriously?!  Tests had been run, nothing appeared wrong.  Jay was right, Dad needed to be in his own bed with trustworthy people caring for him.  We could both invision my confused and very agitated father, stuck alone in a hospital bed with uncaring staff.  He needed to be home!  So, our angel Vickie is staying with him tonight and tomorrow.  Jay will be back tomorrow for a trip to the doctor and this weekend the Jones and Brigman men will be tag-teaming it at Dad's house.

I don't know how this whole thing will play out.  Dad keeps telling me not to worry, that everything is going to be fine.  One thing I do know, though, is that our hospital choices for Dad have changed.  It will either be Washington Regional or the VA hospital the next time.  I am sorely disappointed in the local hospital choice.  The one that promises great service in the ER.  Bull-oney.

So how did I get from writing about my care-giving mom to my care-needing dad?  Partly because I was dreaming about Mom when I got the call about Dad.  And partly because she is still a part of who he is and I know, if she were still here, he and I would both feel a lot better.  And one of us would not be in our current situation.

Jay and Dad...
Like Father, Like Son


  1. Hope your dad is doing better today, Patti. Revise my previous post to read, "Will continue praying for your entire family." The "love you" parts needs no revision.

  2. Hope ya'll are doing well!! Get better soon, Mrs. Brigman!!!!! :)