I’m spending the holidays with dear old, dear old Dad, who observed his 96th birthday in November. He lost his wife of 70 years in February and has been under hospice care since June. If you ask Stuart, 2016 deserves its bad reputation, even though he’s not sure who might be in the White House these days.
I’m trying to be constructive about this time under my father’s roof, and learn what I can from it. Some of my lessons are reminders, other are insights, others are hypotheses I’ll want to test when I’m facing hospice:
1) Have fun in this life. Dad can’t recall that he went to the urologist this morning, but he still knows how to play competitive cribbage. Why? Because he learned the game early and well, played it a lot, and enjoyed every game. He still delights in listening to Dave Brubeck’s “Time Further Out” album, often several times a day. It’s the soundtrack of his prime, and he loves it still.
2) Bacon and eggs is a great meal any time of day. Getting food into Dad has become a challenge, so he gets to eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and good old bacon and eggs works a treat more often than not. If you have fave meals, enjoy them to the last bite. Smucker’s seedless raspberry jam can be worth getting out of bed for.
3) Touch matters. All kinds of people interact with Dad to keep him clean, to prevent bedsores, to put drops in his eyes, to dress and shave him. This is clinical touch, and I’m sure he’d rather have less of it. Dad can’t stand on his own any more, so hugging him has become more difficult. I rub his back when he sits at the table, and every time–every single time–he says, “That feels good.”
4) Things change and that can be a huge blessing. Dad was a scientist and has hundreds of publications to his name. His laser-beam intellect was his light sword, how he provided for his family, (and how he avoided dealing with a lot of messy emotions). Now… what a mercy that he can’t recall that today is the anniversary of mom’s birthday, or that he can’t grasp how much his in-home care is costing him. As I was growing up, he viewed television as a tool of Satan. Now the high point of his week is watching reruns of Lawrence Welk on Saturday.
5) Love is what really matters–as if I didn’t know that already. Dad has the means to see that his needs are met at home (for now), and he loves his little house by the sea. He loves me, too, and I love him, and that’s all that makes this hospice season bearable. Dad will die, but when he’s gone I’ll still be fortified by memories, wisdom, and insights he gave me. That’s the deal we get. What we make of it is largely up to us.
What did you learn this holiday season? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of The Trouble With Dukes.
Enjoy your time with your dad and have a good new year, Grace.
I do enjoy the time. All the issues are done. We have nothing to prove, no points to make. My relationship with Dad was never contentious (that heavy lifting fell to my dear mother), but it’s particularly peaceful now. I treasure that, and treasure my siblings, who have their priorities straight.
I learned that family and friends make the holidays special. The gifts, tree and pretty lights are symbols of the holidays– friends and family make memories with you.
We had two friends join us for Christmas dinner and had a fabulous time. It was very casual; dinner was served in the kitchen on the old farm table not in the dining room. The red tablecloth ,Christmas dishes and candles dressed up the room. We shared stories, watched home movies (on DVDs) and opened gifts. It was nice to see smiles on everyone’s faces!
Enjoy your time with your Dad. You have lots of memories to make with him.
What you said! That sense of community, of being able to create a circle of love and laughter, that makes any season a holiday. All the great food, presents, and wassail in the world can’t replace that sense of giving the spirit a place to rest and connect.
How wonderful to be blessed with such a precious shared history and a beloved parent! The holidays are wonderful times to take out wonderful memories and review and appreciate them. I think that this year I learned to love and be thankful for my friends and family each and everyday. I learned that any meal is a feast when it is flavored with laughter and love. I learned that good books help us to learn to be better people through examples and reminders. Thank you for your books. Have a blessed and happy new year to you and your father!
I just want everybody to know, I did NOT read this comment before I replied to Sue. Great minds really do think alike.
I learned that sometimes holiday by oneself are exactly what is needed! We unplugged to a very large extent this year. While it was a little bit sad too, it felt luxurious to not have much to do!
I usually get more writing done over the holidays than at any other time of year, and I emerge into the New Year with a great sense of being ahead of the curve. I suspect half that forward momentum is because I’ve hibernated socially, and stuck by my own hearth.
To each her holiday of choice.
My father-in-law is having health issues as well. Five of his seven children were together for Christmas, so there was a Summit (if you will)of *what to do with DOD* (Dear Old Dad–what he wants us to call him). The other two were on conference calls for most of this.
DOD was a brilliant dentist, ahead of his time believing in Prevention instead of treatment of dental problems. But he can’t remember what the meds he is taking are for (so why should he take them?…his words…which gets him into trouble) and is making life tough for himself and the people who love him.
I’ve learned my husband and his siblings are decent people who hate having to make decisions no one wants to make. And being together for Christmas has been much more pleasurable than in years past because, for once, everyone is on the same team. It’s refreshing. Most of the grand-kids have their Granddad’s best interests at heart…except for one and it’s surprising since he is the favorite. 🙁
I wish we could have enjoyed each others company for the holidays without DOD’s problems forcing us to act together. Guess it is wonderful to know the people posturing two years ago can be kind. That says something too!
Yikes… what a backhanded, but important gift.
My family is sooooo lucky that one sister lives a couple miles from Dad, and for years has been the case manager, communications officer, cheer leader, and finger-on-the-pulse. When my Mom died in February, my other sister packed up her worldly goods and moved in with Dad, so he’s never been without family to share his roof. I’m one of the in-field utility siblings (five of us), and still, with all seven kids on the same page, and two of them doing most of the work in harness, it’s a tremendous effort.
The favorite has a lot to lose by admitting that Grandpa is facing death and mental disability, and he’s probably a lot like Grandpa. When addictions counselors ask teens and young adults, “When did the substance use become a problem?” the answer is often, “When my favorite grandparent died….” Or, “When the pet I’d had since childhood died.”
Taproots–we needs ’em.
Savor these moments with your father – I lost mine almost three years ago and his last few months were spent with a series of hospital stays so I understand exactly what you’re going through. This Christmas was the first in many years I was able to spend with all my grandchildren and it reaffirmed the importance of being with those you love. Nothing is more important than telling those you love how much you care and to say it as often as you can. You never know when it will be the last time you will have the opportunity.
I learned everyone needs a part to play in the celebration, or that person/s is likely to show up as the bad fairy Some bring chocolate, some mash potatoes… Then you have community.
My dad is now 95 years old and I have been watching how revered he is by anyone who knows him. He is such a gentleman,always smiling,always gentle,always glad to spend time with you. He has dementia and loves listening to Lawrence Welk and old British comedies over and over. I don’t know if I will have his grace and goodness as I grow older. That is what I wish to learn for myself and teach to my children.
Christmas was tough. My husband feels bad that he can’t give me more expensive gifts. In-laws are challenging. I saw my mom who is 83. She has dementia. She is in a memory care facility. My middle sister is the main care giver for her. My mom does enjoy hugs. We watched “Newhart” Chicago and Vermont, she enjoyed that. Right now she still knows who I am, but there may come a time, when she doesn’t know who I am and that is hard.
I’ve learned that the truly important moments in life are those times we’re with family & friends and there is laughter and love surrounding us. Being able to just relax no matter how hard life is. I think it’s that very laughter and love along with sharing that feed our soul. My dad passed at 93 a couple of years ago. My mom 15 years ago. I find that all those memories and moments of love and laughter are like a great big hug. Enjoying your Dad now is a wonderous thing isn’t it when there is nothing to do but love and enjoy ?..
Happy New Year to everyone.
I learned that there’s no such thing as loosing a beloved father, only missing his touch, his voice, his presence. We’re their legacy and memory and their very being, as are our children and everything they left for us. If we’re lucky, as you and I are, they left this world a better place because of their beliefs, effort and life work. My father was an oncologist, later turned homeopathic physician. He was guided by his convictions and fierce loyalty to his patients and fought against the establishment, status quo and injustice every way he knew how. He left admiration, respect and awe in my heart and the feeling of being the most fortunate of people for being his child. I carry the responsibility of making his name as great as it was by my behavior and example and for that, I put myself in God’s hands. Enjoy every moment with him, knowing that he’ll go straight to your heart the moment he leaves this world. Best of luck to you and him. Ana Burr (a fan, also scared to death novice writer!)
Dang, Grace, you made me cry… again! I learned that even after 21 (dad) and 17 (mom) years gone, I still miss my parents terribly, especially at the holidays.
I also am incredibly grateful for my 21 year old daughter who brings holiday joy with her as she walks in the door. She is my chief elf (as I was for my mom) and she is simply the best thing that I ever “did”!!
Spending time with friends and family is priceless… my only “plan/resolution” for the New Year is to try to spend more time with those that are dear to me. We never know how long anyone has on this earth, and it’s important to share as much of ourselves with each other as we can!
Make a recording of his voice while you still can. I was so overwhelmed caring for two dying parents alone (they were even in two separate hospitals across town from each other at one point) that I had no time to preserve anything.
Take care of YOU and your siblings. By the time my mother died, I had pneumonia. When I finally staggered back to my own doctor, he said, “Thank God! I was afraid she was going to take you with her.” People discount the toll on the caregivers, nor do they realize how dangerous some dementia patients can be as their failing minds convince them the caregiver is a safe target for all their pent up frustration and rage.
Have the book and love it.
I already have an e-copy of “THE TROUBLE WITH DUKES”. However, I did want to share with you a couple of lessons I have learned over the years. Often, when we are watching a loved one slowing working their way to death, we are the ones holding them back. They are pulled in two directions. One is the family that has gone before them that want them to join them and the other is the family that doesn’t want to lose him. Letting go requires strength. It does not sound as if your dad is at the point, quite yet, where he is really ready to go, but he is getting closer. I pray for you both to get ready for his next adventure.
The other thing that I have learned is never to spend time with regrets for “missing something”, when someone dies unexpectedly. My husband and I just lost a good friend and neighbor last week to suicide. We knew he was depressive but on meds for it. What we did not know was th emeds were not working. With the cost of his wife’s meds fo MS, he did not have enough money, he felt, to see his Dr. and get his meds changed. He told no one this. He felt he was failng his family. The Wednesday before New Years he sat in his driveway in his truck and shot himself. His wife found him a couple of hours later. We were shocked to learn about it. He and my husband had made plans to work on a project this week. My husband felt he had in some failed hiS friend and took it fairly hard. As the week went on, we learned of the far reaching effect our friend’s death had on our mutual circle friends. Many felt the same way. It is sad that EVERYONE felt they had let them down, including me. Nothing we would or could have would probably have changed the eventual outcome. The circle has closed protectively around his family now and maybe that is all that can be done.
Thank you for giving me so much joy and pleasure with your books. The humor, the people, the plot, the entire reading them experience is fabulous. I have read your historical romances almost rexclusively because that is currently my focus. Keep them coming. I am looking forward to reading about Colin and Anwen next.
May the Lord bless you and you father and watch over both.
Ray D. Long
Facing the inevitable loss of a parent is always difficult no matter what their age (or yours). To have been blessed with them for whatever time you have them is to be treasured. We don’t get to choose our time or the way we go, but to know there is someone with a loving touch (not just caring…for daily needs) can convey so much with a single hug or back rub. Now it is our time to step up into the role of maternal (in our case) head of the family and be the loving example for the next generations.