Well. Just when I thought it was safe to come back to the blogging world, my life gets turned upside down, topsy turvey in fast forward. I had to rush to Florida last Friday to help my mom and dad. This was not written in my planner, not in my datebook. This was an emergency. I will not bore you with the mundane details but my dad had been in the hospital for eight days and we had to move him to a rehab facility. There are many unanswered questions, many details to attend to and a multitude of decisions to be made. I went down to try and offer my support to my parents. It was an experience I will not soon forget and it might be a bit before I recover. If nothing else I did receive an education.
The first thing I learned is that people should be prepared. Important documents such as living wills and power of attorneys should be filled out when people are healthy and calm. I realize it makes people uncomfortable to discuss issues involving death but to not be prepared puts an incredible burden on people when they are under extreme stress. To fill out 'Do Not Resuscitate' forms when one can't even focus is not advisable.
The second thing I learned is that we need to keep on moving. My dad is in his current situation because he has refused for the past nine weeks to get out of his bed. Now there are other circumstances involved here BUT the worse thing he could have done is to become bedridden. His muscles are so atrophied he faces weeks of tough therapy. Even his throat muscles have stopped working properly. Now the atrophied throat muscles have caused me great stress for the past six days. The speech pathologist ordered my dad to be on a diet of pureed foods until they can strengthen his throat muscles.
The third thing I learned is that my father hates pureed foods. I was met by the nurse on Saturday. "Your father is quite indignant about the pureed peas. Do you think you could talk to him? He is refusing to eat."
Lord, help me. I went into his room and used my calm voice. I reminded him about the atrophied throat muscles, the dangers of choking and how if he works really hard during his therapy that he could move up to mechanical soft foods. I prayed he wouldn't ask me what a mechanical soft food was. "Pureed peas taste like dog shit," he yelled at me in a loud enough voice that I am sure the dietary staff could hear him. "Dad, you have got to eat. We are worried about you." His response to me was, "I want chocolate and cookies." I went and bought the man a dish of ice cream. He ate the whole thing. Life was good.
I went in the next day and was met by the same nurse. " We are worried about your father. He is on a hunger strike and won't eat. Could you try talking to him again?" Oh, yeah, I'd love to ~ I was hoping you'd ask me.
" Dad, what seems to be the problem with your food? " Stupid question but I thought I should hear it from him. "They served me pureed broccoli last night. It was an injustice to broccoli . I won't eat that mush." I walked down to the ice cream shoppe and bought him a triple scoop of raspberry sherbet. He ate the whole thing.
On Monday, the speech pathologist agreed to change the food order to mechanical soft. I still don't know exactly what that means but all I know is that he is eating and not causing a scene. I still bought him a dish of ice cream every day.
My dad responds well when I use my 'teacher' voice. I had to resort to it on occasion when he was extremely rude and unruly with some of the staff. "Dad, do you want me to use my teacher voice?" "NO, I don't!" And then he would listen to the therapists or the CNA's while I stood watching in the corner. His roommate, Richard, motioned me over one day.
"So you are a teacher?" he asked me. I replied that I had been in a past life.
"Well, this is what I think about teachers," he replied and proceeded to give me the finger.
I wish I could write about some wise comeback or zinger that I had thrown his way but I just walked out of the room, found a quiet corner and started to cry. The tears were for my dad and for the frustration and stress we had all been under.
I could probably write many more paragraphs. Lord knows there is enough material for an entire book such as when the CNA took my father's temperature by putting the instrument into his ear. He asked her what she was doing and she told him. His reply ~ "Oh, I thought that was a sex toy." My face turned red. That's my dad. And now I am back home safe and sound. Conflicting emotions and ugly memories that I thought I had dealt with are alive once more in my belly. The past is present.