Sunday, May 27, 2007

Visiting Dad/Morey

Tammy and I went up to Virginia , MN, (215 miles north) this past week to see her father at the nursing home where he's staying. When we last spoke with him a few days earlier he wasn't at all happy about being admitted to the facility knowing that he wouldn't be returning home. He was caught off guard by his doctor's decision to have him remain at the nursing home and by the agreement of most of the other members of the family about the decision.

Tammy went to Slumberland and picked out a recliner to bring up to him. There's a recliner in his room but it's seen better days. We also put together a couple photo collages for his walls...one of black and white photos from his childhood and another of more recent photos. Tammy also picked up an inexpensive DVD player for his room for the occasional DVD we put together...mostly stuff of Rachel.

Speaking of Rachel, we brought along a DVD of her dance recital from last weekend. This is the first dance recital of hers that he hasn't been able to attend.

We headed out into a pouring rain on the heels of rush our traffic Thursday morning. 35W was a parking lot so we inched our way along until we were able to veer off onto 35E and begin to make tracks. We got to Virginia just in time to have lunch with him. He'd reserved one of the meeting rooms as Elaine (his wife) and Tammy's sister, Cindy, were going to be there too. He was happy to see us and a big smile came across his face as we walked into the room. The lunch was okay but I'm not used to eating my food pureed.

After lunch he took us to his room and showed us around a bit. We met his roommate, Lloyd. A very nice guy who made his living as a carpenter on the iron range. He's forgetful as so many that age are and had a difficult time trying to remember dates and places from long ago but you could tell that he was enjoying reaching back for us as he told about his life.

Tammy and I got the recliner set up for her dad and were happy to find that he liked it. We got the photos hung and put away some other miscellaneous stuff we'd brought for him. We weren't able to hook up the DVD player to the TV in his room so we went out into the commons area and played the DVD of Rachel's dance recital there for him. Before long we'd attracted a crowd. Actually, I think it was more a matter of Morey motioning people over to watch his granddaughter dance. He was beaming with pride and I was happy for him. As we suspected, he's made several friends in the short time he's been there. But it's still sad.

I sat watching the video and found my thoughts drifting away as I'd look at the other residents who'd taken seats to watch the show. One of the staff wheeled a very elderly woman next to me. She couldn't hold her head up and appeared to be talking to herself. Her eyes were closed and it was as though she was dreaming. She appeared to be distressed and I wondered what sort of thoughts she was having. I wondered what sort of interaction she was capable of and how she's changed over the last five, ten or twenty years. She seemed to be just hanging on.

I couldn't help but have thoughts of myself when and if I reach old age and how I'll adjust. Will I age gracefully or will I be determined to fight to hang on to my youth and independence? My father didn't age gracefully but for the most part my mother has.

Tammy's father has done well to this point and it's very sad that he's no longer at home but the nursing home really is the best place for him to be. It's important that we all do our part to keep him connected to the family...phone calls, letters and visits when we can get away for the day. That would mean a lot to me if I was in his position and it no doubt means a lot to him.

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