Remembering dad, two years later & every day

Today it was the most adorable older man pushing a walker along with his yellow labrador while I was running in Central Park. It wasn’t the dog (my dad wasn’t the biggest fans of the four-legged), but the use of the walker, and the way the man had his head cocked down slightly as he walked slowly.

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This adorable man reminded me of my dad today.

On other days, it’s music that shuffles onto my Spotify from my favorite song list, or a dish my mom will make, as my dad always worshipped her cooking. I think about my dad every single day, and especially today, two years since he died.

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My dad on the exercise bike when he still lived at home.

I think of him so fondly when I’m riding my bike in the park for exercise, or while on a Citibike to get around the city and I maybe tell a motorist who gets to close to “Watch it!” as my dad fancied himself a very defensive driver and cyclist.

He instilled in my brothers and I a sense of humor (see the funny in everything), a love of parks and recreation, and music, of course. One thing my mother always says about his last few years on this earth is that despite experiencing some very tough times with complications due to Parkinson’s disease, he never complained. He never asked, “Why me?”

Can I say to certainty that he never wondered about that? Of course not. In fact, sometimes when I’d visit my parents at home, I’d walk into his room and find him pensively looking out the window, or trying to scribble his signature in a notebook (Parkinson’s effects your ability to write/hold a pen).

But he never let on to us, instead choosing to talk to us, and ask when his next doctor’s appointment was as staying home was NOT fun for him, as it is not really fun for me, either! Social butterflies are us. 🙂

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With family from Colombia (and me, my brother Rich, and nephew, RJ) and my mom in NYC during Christmas time

Because he was homebound, and later in and out of hospitals and nursing homes, in his later years, and lost his ability to speak, hearing about family was one of his biggest joys and I’m sure he’s looking down on them lovingly to this day. He smiled SO WIDELY whenever my nephew, RJ, or my niece, Bella, were around. Even in ICU in his last month, seeing Bella made him smile.

We’re thinking of him lovingly today, and every single day. Here is a piece I wrote about him in 2015, and an obituary post I wrote a couple of days after he died in 2016.

RIP, dad! We love and miss you!

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On providing comfort

Lutheran comfort dogs. Photo via Religion News Service.
Lutheran comfort dogs. Photo via Religion News Service.

I spent much of the day in my father’s room at the nursing home today. I got word that a doctor ordered a sonogram  last night so I wanted to be there since the evening staff last night had, not surprisingly, zero idea why the test was ordered. Thankfully, the results (checking for internal bleeding) were negative.

Last week, in a flurry of work and neighborhood social activities (conferences, commencement, and a blogger meet-up), I missed four consecutive days of seeing my dad. I felt terrible about it (and enlisted my brothers to go the extra mile and visit more) but I’m not going to lie, I felt as if I could get a little bit more done in this thing we call regular life. I did a huge grocery shop, for instance. I washed my own clothes as opposed to sending it to the wash and dry. I concentrated a little more than usual on work. You know, the way I used to be. But at the back of my mind, I wondered if my dad noticed I wasn’t there, and hoped my mother was OK keeping up with it all, especially since, in recent weeks, she returned to her part-time job.

So I’ve gone three times since Sunday of this week and noticed my dad is uncomfortable. Again, the Parkinson’s, the fall and hip fracture, and surgeries, have eroded his ability to form words. Everything sounds like a light moan. So light, that I never worry about the nursing home staff getting annoyed with him; they can barely hear him!

But on Monday night, my brother, mother, and myself, could not figure out what he needed. The choices are limited: adjustment of his position on the bed? Ice/water in the mouth (because he has trouble swallowing, he cannot eat or drink)? Diaper change? Pain?

Many times, he does not (or will not?) respond ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Sometimes, after a full half hour of throwing different options out there, he’ll say yes (or no) to something I asked the first time. It’s frustrating.

And it also has me wondering if our visits hurt him. Stay with me here: Whenever I get there, if he is NOT sleeping, he’s calm. Quiet. And then he sees me and start trying to speak. Trust me, I’ve thought about whether he’s trying to tell us he’s being mistreated, but my mom was there so much before she returned to work, and through observing how they treat other patients, that cannot be it.

(*This is not to say I haven’t seen the staff get a bit snippy, or flat out ignore some other patients. In fact, it is the vocal and sometimes, most able, ones who find themselves ignored. :/)

So, I’m left wondering if dementia has really set in. After my dad fell, the hospital staff, unable to understand him, classified him with mild dementia. “Confused” is the word I’d see in his chart. Obviously, I hastily disagreed: He knew where he was every second. It was they who were confused about what he was trying to say. Or, when feeling ill with pneumonia, he wouldn’t respond to them. This is also confusing!

But, now, I won’t deny that he may have some mild symptoms. After all, it is expected in patients who have had Parkinson’s for many years. He is coming up on 19 years with this tough disease.

We are not going to stop visiting him, of course. I just wish there was a way to allay him of whatever is causing discomfort. Most of all, I think, if I were a millionaire, I’d purchase some technology where I could just strap some wires to his temples and a machine would tell me what he is saying.

I’ve said this before — my dad is where I get my personality and I sure do miss talking to him about sports, music, and jokes. :/