Monday, August 13, 2012

moments at the inn

For the past two years, my father has lived in an assisted living facility.


A few years ago we nearly lost him, shortly after his divorce, when he was living on his own. The move was a wonderful decision for him and I give all the credit to my sister Beth, who was been a loyal advocate for Dad since ... well, for as long as I can remember. 


Dad has his own little apartment and nurses who will check in on him, throughout the day. Downstairs from his apartment, there is a lovely dining area with delicious food and a staff that is dedicated to keeping all of the residents engaged. My 81-year old father is on a first name basis with all of his neighbors and has a social calendar that puts mine to shame. He attends a low-impact exercise program almost every day and has developed a group of friends, many of whom were customers in his pharmacy, from years ago.

One of Dad's best friends was a man named Tom. Every day, they'd wait for each other so they could sit and eat their meals together.  Tom was an absolute hoot.  Although he was well in to his 80's he was a regular Don Juan.  He'd tell the story of how he'd like to leave the grounds and get lost. Literally lost, wandering around the streets in town. According to Tom, it would always attract the ladies who would stop to help him find his way back to the grounds and at least 50% of the time, he'd get a date out of it. Unfortunately, when he went out to get lost late last year, he became severely dehydrated and fell. He never recovered and died a few weeks later. When I talked to Dad about it he said, "It's a real shame, but some people you just can't keep down. Tom was one of them."

This is Ed.


Ed is one of the kindest men you'd ever meet. Whenever the kids come to see Dad, Ed will stop what he's doing and come play with them.  A few years ago, Ed lost his beloved wife of 60 years. Every time he spends time with our family, he smiles and in his eyes, I can see that he is fondly remembering his own children when they were small. "Enjoy 'em!" He always tells me, "They are a gift. One minute they're young and the next they're not... kinda like me!"


When we went to visit Dad over Spring Break, we found him sitting in the library reading a book. The kids, being kids, wanted to know what Grampy was pushing around in his walker - so they asked him to do an inventory.



As he was digging out a box of Kleenex and some Chapstick, cough drops and assorted odds and ends, he discovered an unopened bag of M&Ms .... which were quickly confiscated.  The last time we visited, Dad had several bite sized Snickers in his walker and the time before that, it was Mr. Good Bars.   I suspect that our children will always equate this instrument - which is critical for my father's mobility - as a traveling snack bar.



One afternoon we sat with Dad in the formal dining room and had lunch. Everyone, including Dad, colored with crayons on their paper placemats ... a favorite pastime of ours as we waited for our meals to be served.  My father, it turns out, is quite an artist.


Following lunch, we retreated to Dad's apartment to watch a movie.  Grampy had never seen "Despicable Me" before and he chuckled at the scene where Gru shoots up the carnival stand and takes the big fluffy unicorn. I considered this a signal that he really liked the movie since Dad rarely laughs, especially these days as his Parkinson's has progressed.


One afternoon, William and I went downstairs to listen to a man play the xylophone.


William was responsible for taking pictures.  Here's Ed (on the right) ... sitting with Dad's friend, Dick - yet another kind spirit who is always so happy to see you and will make you feel like you're the center of the universe whenever you engage in conversation with him.


Here's the wheelchair of a woman who was over 100 years old and had the most stunning hair do. Every time we saw her, I was amazed by her beauty. She always applied make-up and jewelry and was dressed to the nines. This just goes to show, you're never too old to take pride in your appearance.


On the last night of our trip, we hosted a pizza party. In addition to our family, my brother's wife was there with their three boys, my brother Frank and his wife, MaryAnn and their four kids, and my sister Janet and her husband Bob (who need to update their blog) all gathered around the table and shared stories for three hours. While it was a great gathering - we were missing three siblings and nine cousins.  Although in Dad's opinion - we were plenty enough since he isn't used to so much excitement.


That was four months ago and I think he's still tired from the experience.