Happy Easter 2014! These last couple of weeks have wreaked havoc on my actions, but alas...my intentions have been beautiful. Forgive me if my writing is scattered, that is just a mirror to my life right now. :) Although this post is not concentrated on gratitude, I just want to emphasize how much I have realized how blessed I am to have such support from loving friends and family. My dear siblings and my Momma....not enough words in the human language to express how much they hold my heart together when it is broken. So thankful.
Yesterday, I took John with me to the Jenks Herb and Garden festival. He fussed the entire way there and the first 20 minutes. This is John's typical response in unfamiliar situations. After a bit, he shared, "Momma, don't say I told you so, but this is a lot more fun than I thought it would be." Victory! We got some awesome plants and seeds, saw lots of cool dogs and ran into many friends.
This year the kids each get their own garden box and John chose to plant watermelon and a 'ghost pepper' plant. This young man hates peppers, and he hates hot, spicy food. Thus, it makes sense that he chose the second hottest pepper on earth. The sign said the 'scorpion pepper' was the hottest and I finally managed to talk him out of that one, so he settled on the ghost variety. Trying to think like a 12 year old boy - whether I like peppers or not doesn't change the fact that it sounds way cool to say I grew a ghost pepper....one of the hottest peppers ever! I hope if they are prolific, we have friends who want them.
Yesterday and today I got my hands in the dirt...literally. I weeded, shoveled, turned soil and set plants. The point is that I did it all begrudgingly, in the beginning. All of it, the festival and the gardening. You see, it has always made my Father so proud to see me gardening. He comes from a farming family and I used to believe he was proud because I was continuing the practice (on a very small scale). Today, I think he was proud simply because he saw the joy and excitement gardening brought me. It was a topic we could talk about other than cars, and I loved those conversations. When I began gardening, Dad was the one who tilled my garden and helped me plant. As the years passed, I'd take him with me to purchase plants, usually from Conrad's in Bixby. Later, he would 'supervise' and give me helpful hints. I never planted the tomatoes far enough apart, and I never made the hills and straight lines he recommended. Still, he was proud. Last year, Dad was a little lost while Ethan, Nathan, the kids and I planted, but he still shared a bit of wisdom and enjoyed watching the action. Momma drove him over countless times to see my garden growing and every time I felt like a little kid, excited to see my parents so I could share my accomplishments with them. This year, my Daddy is not at home to enjoy my garden, thus, I dreaded even doing it.
Where is my Daddy?
My precious Daddy was admitted to a hospital unit for Seniors with dementia. He has been there several days now, and it has been a roller coaster ride for us all. Some days are good, some days are bad; I would not say any have been excellent. There are times that we are certain we have made the best decisions, and there are days we doubt every decision made. Again and again I say, Alzheimer's sucks.
We can only visit him one hour each day during his stay in the unit. One hour. My Momma is used to round the clock, 24 hour time with my dad. My sister, our spouses, our brother, these children of ours...their grandchildren...Daddy and his Alzheimer's are all a big part of our lives. One hour is difficult to say the least. In the beginning, it is restful. Then, as you begin to catch up on the rest- reality sets in. Reality that life has changed dramatically and that once more, a 'new normal' is occurring, with or without our permission.
Tomorrow is his 80th birthday. My Daddy. The Swahili. The tireman. The guy who plays the accordion beautifully and plays the melodies by ear. My Daddy who has always said he will live to 104. The man of great wisdom such as, 'if a frog had wings it wouldn't bump it's ass every time it tried to fly.' and 'I don't mind birthdays, they are better than the alternative'. My encourager. My Daddy who always smelled wonderfully clean and left the scent of his cologne on the leather of his truck steering wheel. My daddy with the grease stained hands. The fisherman. The helper. The maker of silly faces. My Daddy the hard worker (some might say workaholic). My Daddy who can whistle any tune and who always tried to see the bright side. My hard headed, stubborn, set in his ways, cuss at his broken lawn equipment, Daddy. The one who always filled Momma's car with gas, the one who protected, the one who really believes the best about his kids (but also knew the worst), the one who loves us with all he has. My Daddy who finds his God not inside of a church building but rather, in the great outdoors. And all he is was never perfect. Ever. It was though, absolutely real and just what I needed to be who I am (which has also never been perfect).
Tomorrow, April 21, 2014 is Daddy's 80th birthday. Tomorrow, we move this sweet Father of ours to his new home, a place designed just for those who need 'memory care'. Memory care. Memory care. Still processing the weight of the fact that this is where we are. This is bittersweet. I hope he loves it there, and I pray we are confident and at peace with decisions made.
My most recent visit with Daddy was two days ago. It was a really good visit, the most positive one I've had with him in a long time. He greeted me with a smile and a, "Hi, guy!" He introduced me to some of the staff as his beautiful son. I've been 'his son' for quite a while now, but not since his admission to the hospital. Somehow, there is sweet relief in being 'his son', or 'bud' once more.
We walked. We talked. I promised him that when I planted my garden this year, I would heed his advice and put the tomato plants a good distance apart, and in a line. He talked about tire gauges. We were holding two separate conversations and we were holding hands. As we circled the floor, we stopped so he could smile and speak to the same people he had spoken to a few moments earlier. He sought out a new patient who was very tearful, and he asked her what was wrong. She wept, and told him how she just wanted to go home. He placed his giant hand on her shoulder gently and said, "I have a sign in my store that says, 'if you think you can, you will.' He gave her shoulder an encouraging squeeze and we resumed our walk. I cherish that glimpse of my Daddy, he is in there somewhere, the Alzheimer's is just hiding him deeper every day.
I'm going to see my Daddy tomorrow. I will be sure and tell him Happy Birthday. I will let him know that I really did set the tomato plants a decent distance apart, although I could not bear to do hills...and I attempted to make straight lines. I will let him know that although I entered into my project begrudgingly, the dirt did it's therapy on me and I'm excited about my garden. I will tell him how deeply I love him and how thankful I am for him, and how I hurt for his hurt and am thankful for his life. I will tell him, thank you for simply being my Daddy.
I pray John, Stella and Nathan are able to see him too. I pray it is an EXCELLENT day.