Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Hello. Let's switch gears here for a moment.

Last week, I got a call from my mother, one I had been expecting for a little while.

"It's time to move your dad," she said.

Of course, she was talking about moving him to what I've taken to calling "the big house," now known as "lockdown." Another name for an Alzheimer's facility.

Back in the late summer, my niece and I helped move my mom and dad from their home in Virginia to an assisted living community in Lewes, Delaware. It's the kind of place plunked down by aliens in the lonely middle of a cornfield, with little homes in various shades of neutral, an apartment building, medical care facility and the main office/dining room/pool/bingo hall/ballroom. In the winter, hundreds and hundreds of snow geese congregate in the field across the road, sending up a flowing white curtain when one bird decides it wants to split.

They got a little house there, and at the time, my dad was ok. In that, yes, he was off his rocker--you can't understand a word he says because it's mostly gibberish--but he was still shuffling, and still smoking cigarettes. I never thought I'd consider smoking cigarettes a sign that his health was basically ok.

He's not smoking anymore.

He had wandered in the night, my mother told me, before the move. He sometimes fell during his travels, somehow managing to escape serious injury. Once in the new house, he continued to wander while my mother dozed (she never got a real good night's sleep knowing he was shuffling around in the dark), sometimes drinking maple syrup and once eating an entire jar of raspberry jam while hiding mugs and cups and trash can lids all over the house.

About a week before the move to lockdown, he had fallen in the garage at night. My mother found him on the other side of the car, half dressed, asleep on the cold floor. It appeared to her that he had gotten into the vinegar.

She couldn't lift him from the floor, because he is dead weight and largely uncooperative, and she made the last of a growing series of calls to the staff to help her.

A few days later, my mom moved him into a room with a gentleman named Ben. We hear Ben is a nice guy.

My niece and I drove down to Lewes that day. We wheeled Dad into the lockdown and to his room. While we stood there talking to the nurses, he used his feet to scoot the wheelchair out the door and down the hall. My first instinct was to go get him, but I remembered. He's in lockdown. He's not going anywhere.

I did catch up to him as he tried to get up from his wheelchair. He had some trouble, and I eased him back into the seat. I spoke to him gently and stroked his back, and told him I was glad he was exploring his new digs.

He looked at me, and for a brief moment, a wave of clarity seemed to wash over his face. His eyes were scared as he looked at me, looking for answers. He looked like he would cry. It seemed like he tried to speak, but couldn't. I wondered how much he knows.

I wonder if he sees his future.

That look is going to stay with me for a long while.


Kristin said...

Beautifully written Carey. Hard to read without tears as it brought back that memory of when my dad had a very short window to communicate. He had brain cancer and the meds shrunk the tumor briefly and it was during that brief month that he could again speak and acknowledge us. I hope you and your mom can stay strong during this time. Will be thinking about you.....

Anonymous said...

Wow. As I'm sitting here crying my heart breaks for you.

carey said...

Thanks, ladies. H, cut it out. You don't do that sort of thing. ;)