Last Nursing Home Days   Leave a comment


I arrived at the nursing home yesterday, September 27th,  around 11:30 am, and dad was awake and recognized me. I was shocked at his shrinking appearance after only a couple of days. His lunch tray came with his pureed food. The aide fed dad the mashed potatoes and some kind of chicken, and dad ate both of these rounded mounds on the plate. The male aide is young, a big guy who talks encouragingly to dad, pats him on his back, offers a drink frequently. The aide is called away, so I continue feeding dad. Before the aide left, I asked what one dish is that looks like malt-o-meal. “That’s his bread” I’m told. Yuk! I know I can’t give Dad a spoonful of that. He finished the last bite of his chicken stuff, and asked if the next pile on his plate is a cookie. The shape does look like a puffy sugar cookie, but it’s green and must be peas, I’m guessing. It looks almost as bad as the mushy bread in a bowl. The aide must not have wanted to feed him those two things either, the green pile and the mushy bread, because he had not attempted to try them on Dad. Dad eats better and is more alert than he’s been all day. His dessert is chocolate banana cream pie but pureed looks like chocolate pudding, which is the most attractive thing on his tray. I give dad a bite and he says, “Not bad.” It’s one of the few words that I’ve been able to understand when he talks. I’m not sure if it is because he is so weak that he can barely speak or make it audible. Last week, he could speak just fine, and get himself out of bed at night. His bed was lowered to the floor and a mat was beside it, but he could get himself onto the mat, which set his alarm off, but he could do it. This week there is no way he would have the strength to do that. After dad ate, he slept, so I went home feeling sad, wanting some comfort, so I drove to the Dairy Queen and had an ice cream cone.

“You scream, and I’ll scream, we’ll all scream for ice cream.” I remember him saying that when I was little, and knowing that we would get some ice cream.

My sister called after speaking with the hospice nurse. Dad has quit swallowing. Hospice will see him again tomorrow.

I bought paint to touch up the metal on the awnings outside. I moved the little radio/CD player closer to where I was working. I had “a moment” thinking about him and mom and tears dripped onto the cement where I squatted opening the can of white paint. I slid the button from radio to CD. I knew there was a disk in the player but had forgotten which one. It was Nora Jones, the CD we always played for mom in the hospital when we left her room each night. She spent six weeks on the acute rehab floor. The first few times I heard Nora Jones voice, it were hard for me, but today when the music started, and I began to paint, I felt differently. The day was warm with no breeze, Nora Jones sweet voice floated across the yard to me, and I felt a strong sense of gratitude for my imperfect parents. I am here, sensing and feeling this day, because of them. They did their best or their near best, and here I am, there is no place in this moment for regret or blame, just gratitude for both of them, an unlikely pairing of personalities who had five imperfect children. Children who care for each other and know other good things that our parents showed us in this imperfect world.

I drove to Bayard later in the afternoon, and was surprised to see Dad awake. I greeted him and he seemed to know me. I asked him if he knew it was me, and he nodded. His eyes have a vacant look, but yet they seem to look and register my face every so often. I talked a little more, but wasn’t sure if he knew what I was saying or not. Becky and I spoke earlier, and I said that maybe we needed to tell him it was okay to go, so I did. “Dad, it’s okay to go. You don’t have to be afraid. You’ll see mom and Fred.” “Can you hear me?” He nodded yes, but I’m not sure he understood what I was saying or not. We tried more times to communicate, but when he tried to say something, I could not understand him. I thought he said, “I need to go.”

“You mean, die?”

“No.”

A young aide came in to give Dad a message from his granddaughter, Mariah.

“Joe, Mariah called to tell you she couldn’t come today, but that she loves you.”

“Thank you.” I said.

I don’t know if he understood, so I repeated that Mariah had called.

“You had lots of grand kids running around your house. Do you remember?”

He looked at me.

“Pat, Andrea, Josh, Nick, Beth, Katie, Mariah,  Andy, Gunnar, Will, Austin, Dylan, Jake and Addison.”

I saw recognition in his face as I said the names of his grand kids.

“Mom cooked for a lot of people. Do you remember her homemade bread?”

It seemed to me he said yes, but I’m not sure if I just hear what I want.

He fell asleep, and I went home to wait for tomorrow.

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Posted September 27, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Have a Chair, Uncategorized

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