"Mr. Howard" is, of course, the person shot by that dirty little coward, Robert Ford, who laid poor Jesse James in his grave. This may also bother Dad. Ditties can cut through the memory fog better than the names of family members.
We released the monarch butterfly on the playground Thursday about twenty-four hours after it emerged from its chrysalis during art class. The temp was a bit chilly, but the sun was shining.
Each visit with Dad is different. A new anxiety arose this week, as it seemed Dad might get a roommate. He's been lucky to have three months without that stress even though we are paying the semi-private rate [a couple thousand dollars/month less than the semi-private rate in Nebraska].
I removed Dad's stuff from the drawers and closet for the other half of the room, as we had sprawled beyond his half. Anticipating any change makes Dad tense and agressive, making him really obnoxious. I decided to spare him the actual change in privacy by putting him on a wait list for a private room in the same hall with the same staff. His facility has agreed to avoid placing a roommate with Dad until a private room opens up for him in a couple weeks. That private room will cost about what we paid in Nebraska for the dreadful semi-private/semi-nudist roommate situation. It will also move Howie away from the hall howler and the loud blind hymn-singer, bless their pea-pickin' hearts.
Dad is still studying the names and photos I've taped on his closet door, a post-it note family tree. Today a bundle of photos of Dad's great-grandchildren arrived from his granddaughter. Dad is excited by the news that his long-time primary care physician's assistant is getting married.
Dad's relishing his return to regular liquids without the thickening agent supposed to aid his swallowing. This was accomplished with the help of the hospice nurse. I just finished a fascinating book, One Hundred Names for Love, by Diane Ackerman, about helping her novelist husband regain language after a stroke. So many parts of the book relate to caregiving for the elderly. In one funny section, the couple's main drain from their home becomes horribly clogged with creepy black goo. It is the residue of thousands of drinks thickened with "Thick-It" dumped down the sink and gelatinizing everything in the pipe.
If you associate Howard with patience, good sportsmanship, excellent table manners, low-key jokes and story-telling, you would find him transformed. He slaps at people, throws tater tots, and says whatever curses and insults pop into his head. He doesn't like visitors, but he did endure the hospice pastor playing jazz for him. He likes dessert, and has allowed me to assist him eating cinnamon baked apples and peach cobbler. If I am slow with the next spoonful he strokes my hand with his waxy fingers.
Dad is frail, increasingly resembling "Flat Stanley". He spends most of his time in bed, but still appreciates it when I ask if that is where he kept his sorry A all day. He laughs a breathy wheeze. Dad has recovered from the respiratory infection, but still uses oxygen at night. He likes the furnace set at 74 degrees, if he is wearing a sweater under two quilts. He sleeps a lot.
It is spring in North Texas. Dad still hasn't made it outside for fresh air.
The newly-emerged monarch didn't seem to have all its wits about. Flittered a bit, but never got cleared for take-off.
Another monarch is overdosing on soapberry blossom nectar. One grackle is walking beside the koi pond. An old man does and doesn't want to be left alone.
© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder