Monday, April 28, 2008

a can of budweiser did me in

My family that had been visiting us for the past week, left yesterday morning. It was beyond great to have them here. Not just because we haven't seen each other for over two years, but because having the extra set of hands to hold the baby - play with the children - and fold laundry was wonderful.

We spent my birthday down by the bay. Although I never forget my camera when I step foot out of the house ... I forgot my camera. In fact almost every time we stepped foot out of the house, I forgot my camera. I do not have any pictures of Carolyn riding her first roller coaster at Legoland while Elizabeth and William were at home with Charlie - battling the stomach flu. Nor do I have any pictures of my nephew and William flying their kites 400 feet above their heads. But I do have pictures of us singing Happy Birthday.

On two separate occasions.

I have pictures of the kids playing with their playground which is where they spent almost every waking moment when we were home.

I have pictures of my father seeing Shamu ...

And the Budweiser Clydesdale Horses for the first time.

I also have pictures of us visiting beautiful Coronado Island where my nephew splashed in the waves with his cousins...

And I tried to teach the kids how to do cartwheels.

I have pictures of my Henry trying to pull my sister's lip off ...

And Henry trying to pull my nephew's lip off.

But most importantly, I have a lot of pictures of my dad with my kids.

I have pictures of him spinning Elizabeth, the princess.

I have pictures of him wearing the new sun hat that I bought him to match his grandson's.

I have pictures of him feeding my baby and saying "Open, Open, Open, here comes the choo-choo!!" much the way that I remember him feeding me when I was a little girl.

I have pictures of him holding hands with Elizabeth, and pretending to suck his thumb, much the way I remember him also pretending to suck his thumb like I did, when I was a little girl.

I have pictures of Carolyn doting after him, insisting that he wear his birthday crown, bringing him blankets while he napped on the couch, and making sure that his teeth were brushed before he went to bed at night.

I have pictures of Carolyn (before we moved her to another location) kicking the living daylights out of him while she was asleep, because she was adamant that she stay with Grampy and keep him safe. And apparently, bruised.

I have pictures of the kids tentatively trying to wake him up from his naps.

And pictures of him when he found our old corn broom and spent an afternoon sweeping our entire patio and walkway.

Dad has always loved to sweep. I have vivid memories of him with an old corn broom in hand sweeping the front steps of his pharmacy. I also have memories of him sipping a cold Budweiser every night. We kept our refrigerator stocked with Budweiser for dad while he was here. He liked that. He also liked Bill Bryson's book "A Walk In the Woods" which I gave him to read.

It was when I was cleaning out the refrigerator last night and found the one remaining can of Budweiser, that the emotions I'd been holding at bay all week came flooding out. It was then that I realized the great circle of life means that one day, children will be more capable than their parents.

The Parkinson's Disease has really advanced since I last saw my dad in December of 2005. He walks much slower than he did before, and it can be extremely difficult to hear him because his voice is so weak. He sleeps a lot ... definitely more than Henry. He said it is because of his medication and the fact that Parkinson's makes him feel very fatigued.

Although he has aged a lot in the past five years, it is hard for me to shake the image of him as a strong, independent man. When I see him now, my heart hurts. When I think of what he has been through with his recent divorce, his declining health - and the circumstances that lead to the divorce from my mother - my heart hurts even more.

My sister might be selling her house and moving in (with her husband and son) to live with my father soon because it is clear to us that he really should not be living alone. Although the family has suggested that dad sell his house and move in to a condo - or something smaller and easier to maintain - he is certain that he wants to remain in the home that he built 30 years ago.

I feel so helpless living 3,000 miles away. I've talked to Charlie about moving back so that I could be closer and help, closer so that I could see him. But it's just not feasible. Our house is here. Our careers are here. Our professional registrations are here. Our life is here. Dad's life is in Massachusetts and that's where he wants to be. Yet, it doesn't seem possible that I have already reached a point in my life where I need to be thinking about the care of an aging parent.

When did time start moving so fast?

We are making plans for Christmas in New England. I want to get back and see him and hopefully, give our children an opportunity to create memories with their Grandfather. It's so important that we spend quality time with our loved ones, while the sun is shining.


  1. Hi Jen,
    I have never commented before, but I just wanted to tell you that I can relate as my father also suffers from Parkinson's. Worse still is that fact that my maternal grandmother passed away from Parkinson's several years ago and my father witnessed her declining health and knew that that was what his future held. It's hard, I know. Hope your kiddos are on the mend.


  2. I can't relate to the Parkinson's, but I understand not being ready to think about caring for an aging parent. My mom recently fell ill and I had to fly out from Texas to California and make decisions. I am NOT ready to take on the caretaker role at 36. Life doesn't really work on my timetable, though, so I'm dealing with it.

    Great pictures of your dad and your kids. I recently went back through some old photos and videos and found some of the girls with my dad who passed away three years ago. Priceless.

  3. Oy vey! Very nice post about your dad! Made me laugh, made me cry, made me want to call my dad (and have a beer)! Thanks!
    Hope to see you guys on Thursday!!!

  4. What a sweet post Jen! I love all of the pictures, your dad's a handsome man, and I see that sparkle in his eyes! I'm so sorry about all that he has gone through, but I'm sure he had a blast spending time with you last week!

  5. Hi Jen! Remember me? It's BostonLisa! Anyhow, for some reason, I just decided to check in on your blog tonight. I'm so glad I did. Your post about your dad warmed my heart so much! I lost my dad almost 3 1/2 years ago. I miss him so much! And, my mom is suffering from dementia now. Regretably, she doesn't "know" me very well anymore. It's so hard to see your parent need to switch roles with their children.

    As you know, I live in MA as well on Boston's North Shore. I would love to meet you and the kids if you do come for a visit. I know you'll be busy, but the offer stands.

    I hope your sister is able to move in with your dad. Living alone in his declining state is just too sad to imagine.

    Hugs to you, those 'amazing trips' and little Henry as well!!! We miss you aroung the BB!!!!


  6. What wonderful memories for you and kids!

  7. My grandma died about two years ago. She had Parkinson's and lived with my family for ten years preceding her death. My grandma was a very reserved woman and I wish I had known her better. However, I am lucky to have gotten to know her as well as I did while she lived with us. I will treasure the memory of how we both laughed as I tried to help her walk to the bathroom so I could change her diaper. Most of the time she was less with "it"- and us. I wish you, your father and your family well on this difficult path. I can relate.

  8. I bet that would be an emotional ride...I liked this post! And I can tell LOTS of great memories were made with Grampy while he was with the kids and for you as his daughter also! That is neat...I am sorry that his health has declined so much!

    And I can't believe how big Henry is getting!

  9. What a lovely post.

    Your father is a beautiful man and this was a gorgeous and loving tribute to him.


  10. ahhhh...great pictures! memories are soooo wonderful- your post brought tears to my eyes....regardless of age we just never know what the future holds...we hope to get closer to our families one day too.....not sure if it will happen, but I hope to-

    So glad you got all those pictures with your dad!!!

  11. So beautiful I loved it! you will have the pictures forever! Remember to back them up!!!
    I simply must know where you got the rug with birds and flowers it is stunning

  12. I'm so glad you got to spend this time with your father and sister. What wonderful memories you'll have and I think it's just fantastic for the kids too. I loved seeing all the pictures.

  13. Your dad looks like a good sport! What great photos even if Legoland is missing. ;-)

  14. What a wonderful post!! How lucky you are that you have gotten to spend such good quality time with him! Enjoy each and every moment!!

  15. What a beautiful post. Thank you. I especially love the last line. It's so true.

  16. One of many cuzzins!4/29/08, 1:51 AM

    Aw Jen, GREAT pictures! I just love the one of all of them in their hats with Grampy.

    Looks like your children had a wonderful visit with your Dad. I am happy for you that he was able to make the trip.

    Don't be hard on yourself about the distance. And, don't let anyone make you feel guilty. Sounds cold, but he made choices that ultimately put alot of mileage between you. You have your own life to live and he knows you are with him in spirit.

    It will be such a nice Christmas for him if you are able to get there. Then you can do cartwheels in the snow!


  17. What a beautiful post. Great pictures! I am sorry that your dad's health is declining, but it's great that he can still enjoy time with his grandchildren, and they can enjoy him so much.

    Also, holy wow, the play structure looks amazing! Way to go!

  18. This is a beautiful post. My dad died 11 days ago. The morning after his funeral, at 8 a.m. my brother stopped at his grave, before heading back to South Dakota, and had a Miller Lite (Dad's beer) with our dad. It is the color yellow (Dad's favorite) that does me in right now.

    You are making beautiful memories for yourself and for your children.

  19. I am glad you got in a good cry. That is some powerful mojo going on that needs to be processed. My favorite patients are parkinsons old men. I heart them:) This is my favorite post, I feel it. You couldn't pay enough money to replace this past week. Priceless!

  20. I recommend a dose of BON JOVI concert to get back to the 80's! awesome! awesome! awesome!

  21. This really touched me this morning. I am so glad you were able to enjoy some time with your father and sister. It is so difficult living across the country from family, isn't it? I recently decided to move back home because I want my children to know their grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins... Our visits are always too short and always leave me homesick. Seeing the pictures of your dad really hit home for me.

  22. Beth looks wonderful by the way and I'm glad you have nice memories of your visit.

    Watching your parents w/any type of illness is so tough. As my father always says when I hang up the phone or say good-bye after a visit... "enjoy your day dear and thank you for your time".

    I'm so glad you were able to enjoy your time. Much Love, Marg.

  23. Great post Jen ... surely brought tears to my eyes. You are so smart to do the things that you are doing with your father and your children. My husband lost his dad one year ago today - your post hit home. Enjoy your dad and take all the pics you can!!

  24. Hi Jen,
    I love reading your blog. Those pics of your dad are great. He really looks like our grandfather, don't you think? Would love to hear from you. I have a lot to fill you in on about my mom's declining health. Send me an email when you get a chance.
    Love, Candy

  25. It's really hard to see your parents get older. Or in my case parent. My dad died at 51 but my mom is still going strong at 80. She bowls twice a week, has a job two afternoons a week, reads, still drives safely but I can see her getting a little more fragile all the time.

  26. Wow, Jen, that was a moving post. I became tearful looking at the picture of your dad napping, while Elizabeth was peaking at him. And while reading the part about your dad sweeping. It's the little things about family that are so endearing and we remember. I'm glad you had this week with your dad and sister. You're a great daughter.

  27. Loved the photo of Carolyn taking such vigilant care of him.
    Glad you had this time together.

  28. I should know better than to read blogs at work... But I am impressed by the amount of love you were able to express and how sweet your children are. What a lovely post and how sad...

  29. p.s. I LOVE the Foley Beer shirt! Classic!

  30. Beautiful, beautiful post. Good times.

  31. I can honestly say that I've been reading for years and that is the first time I've openly wept over your blog...
    Not b/c I was sad for your Dad, it seemed like he had a lovely trip. But b/c I was able to see so much of my own Dad in yours...

  32. Beautiful post. We will be visiting my family in Tulsa, where Im from (we are in Austin) this summer. I plan to have the camera ready to go for special moments like yours.
    Made me get a bit weepy. Your dad is a cool dude. My dad also likes budweiser. :)
    -Shannon in Austin