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 of 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-hour 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 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 so 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.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Update on Mike, Recital weekend and ready to paint

In my last entry I wrote about Mike, a friend who had been in a bike crash the previous week. He's doing well, all things considered. He's pretty certain he'll never ride again; at least not on the road. He may do some tandem riding with his wife on the trails but not much more than that. I know how much Mike liked to ride so this isn't going to be an easy thing for him to let go of. I try to imagine myself having to put an end to my riding and those are thoughts I'd rather not have.

Recital weekend is over for another year. Rachel has really found her stride with the Senior A company and is thriving in that group. Tammy went to all three shows while I opted out of the last one. There was no dads' dance for me to participate in this year; maybe next year. Videotaping the performance is not allowed as there is a videographer present who sells a DVD of each show for $45. That's fine but if you want to actually get some close-ups of your child you need to do it yourself—and so I do. I'm discreet about it but still uncomfortable as I know the camera police are out there scanning the audience. Last year I was an usher for 3 of the performances and part of my job was to ask people to stop taping. I couldn't do it. I let them record. The owners of the studio look at it as money out of their pockets when people don't buy the video but we actually do buy a copy each year. I can't speak for others. In years past the quality of the produced video left a lot to be desired. I understand that they need to sell enough videos to make it worth while but it's also important that people be allowed to capture their child's performance for themselves.

Oh, and we got to meet Rachel's boyfriend, Grant, at the recital. Nice looking kid.

It was a busy weekend for sure with not only Rachel's three recital performances but also her Confirmation on Sunday morning. We're quite proud of the way she took the initiative to put herself out there and get involved with the youth group from Prince of Peace. Actually, it was something we'd prayed about for her. The youth group at Hosanna is going nowhere and nobody seems to be able to breathe any life into it. Had she not gotten involved with Po she wouldn't have been confirmed—simple as that.

Tammy and I built a lightbox for Tammy to use for glass painting as she's ready to do stained glass for real. I don't know that I'll ever learn that aspect of stained glass art. She's a much better artist than I am. Here's a link to some of the paintings she did for a class she took in college. I hope she's able to someday take another class but until then, painting on glass is pretty cool.

Tammy's father is now living in a nursing home and not too happy about it. He fell twice in the span of a few days a while back and was taken by ambulance to the hospital after his last fall. His wife was unable to help him up nor was he able to help himself. It's been apparent to us that he's been losing some steps over the last few years but more noticeably in the last year. Our biggest concern is that he was still getting behind the wheel. He got a speeding ticket a couple years ago for going 85 in a 65. That's way too fast a speed for him and a good indication of how out of control he could sometimes be. Tammy was in the car on a trip with him last summer where he was going 90. He had to be stopped.

After his stay in the hospital, he was sent to an assisted living center where they evaluated him and suggested that a nursing home was an appropriate place for him to be. In some ways, it's an easy decision to come to but at the same time you realize the finality of a decision like that and the depression it's causing in him. It's very sad. One of Tammy's sisters is not in favor of the decisions which have been made and it's creating some tension. It's understandable and I think it's not at all unusual.

Tammy and I are taking a trip to see him in a few days. We went out tonight and purchased a recliner for him for his room and we're putting together some photo collages for his wall. We'll meet Tammy's mother and sister up there, have lunch together then head for home.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Mike's crash, Rachel's first date and her Confirmation

A good friend of mine, Mike Koch, is in the hospital. Mike was riding his bike Monday afternoon when an older guy in a car crossed the center-line and hit Mike head-on. Mike suffered a compound fracture in one of his lower legs with six breaks, a severely separated shoulder, and broken shoulder blade, several broken ribs and a punctured lung. He's expected to remain in the hospital for the next week before he's transferred either back home or possibly to a transitional care unit. Mike has been a roadie for the 25 years I've known him and I think this is his second crash. I hope he'll one day find the desire to ride again but I'm sure it's going to take some time.

When I first heard about Mike's crash I thought that maybe an inattentive driver using a cellphone was to blame. That's my biggest fear out on the road these days. Last month I had a car pass me on the white line with me just to the right of it. For the split second that the car was next to me, I could see the driver's hand holding a cellphone. My guess is they were either dialing a number or texting. Either way, my presence out on the road was less important than their need to communicate.

Mike's crash is unnerving news to me but I don't for a minute want to reconsider this thing I love to do.

Rachel had her first date last Friday night. A part of me was excited for her but there's the other part of me who doesn't want to admit that this little girl of ours is growing up and will be gone from the nest in a few short years. She met Grant at a ski outing with the youth group from Prince of Peace church a few months ago. It was a double date with two other kids from the group to go see Spiderman 3. The movie wasn't so good but they had a nice time. They're planning another double date this weekend to go bowling.

Rachel was telling us about a question posed to them in Social Studies class this week. They were talking about the practice of prearranged marriages in some parts of the world. Mr. Gassman wanted to know who they would trust to pick a partner for them. Rachel said that almost everyone said they'd trust their friends to choose for them. She said that she would have us decide for her and that she was very much in the minority for thinking that way. I think more than anything that speaks to the openness and trust we have between us. Of course, Tammy and I gave each other an approving smile and thought awe shucks.

I'm still not all that enthused about the idea of her dating but at the same time, I'm happy for her.

We went with Rachel to Prince of Peace this past Sunday. It was a nice service and I could see us going back occasionally. Rachel has been involved with their youth group for the past few years and seems to have found a home there. They've asked her if she would like to be confirmed with them in a couple weeks.

Confirmation has always been an important step in the Lutheran church but Tammy and I haven't placed much emphasis on it. Back when confirmation classes began for her at Hosanna there was a conflict with her dance lessons on the same night. She was going to make confirmation a priority and cancel her dance lessons but one of her dance instructors told her of a church in the area which offered classes on a night which would work for her. We enrolled her at Shepherd of the Valley where she attended several weeks before leaving and not returning. Read here to understand what happened.

When she tried to return to Hosanna she was told that there wasn't room in the class for her. So we left it at that.

Rachel has a beautiful faith and in my opinion,​ is miles ahead of other kids her age in that regard. Tammy and I decided that the lack of a Lutheran Confirmation wasn't going to matter and so we let the issue fade. She had been meeting with the kids from Prince of Peace whenever her schedule would allow and now that same group of kids is about to be confirmed. The youth director knew of Rachel's situation about the lack of classes but wanted Rachel to be confirmed with the class anyway. That was very nice of her to offer. Tammy and Rachel went out a couple weeks ago and bought her a dress to wear to her Confirmation.

I'm glad it's worked out this way. She has such a strong bond with the kids from Prince of Peace and it only seems right that she would be confirmed with them.