I'm at my Father's home this weekend, I arrived on Friday (late afternoon) to relieve his live-in healthcare person. I was already exhausted when I arrived: on Tuesday evening my Father went to the emergency room, and after numerous tests, was diagnosed with a severe urinary tract infection and kept over night. They released him Wednesday afternoon - but that evening he became incoherent, fevered, and weak - and I had his healthcare person call 911. Dad was kept two more nights, and released on Thursday afternoon.
Severe UTI's are really problematic in the elderly, and especially elderly patients with dementia (and as I've mentioned here before, my Father has been diagnosed with vascular dementia). On Friday his healthcare person was talking positively about his condition - but he tends to sugarcoat things, and when I arrived I found that my Father wasn't showering on his own, nor was he dressing himself independently. He also had a catheter, that needed to be emptied about every six hours. You get the picture. For the sake of his dignity (and my own), I managed things that I never thought I could, and we've muddled through. He has been sleeping alot. But today - around midday - I convinced him that we needed to go for a drive to visit his two brothers (his younger brothers) and that we would take them each a little package of homemade cookies. After some convincing, he agreed to go.
It was a beautiful day in the Virginia countryside, the car said it was 51 degrees outside. We stopped first at his middle brother's home, who was having all of his family over (and he has five children that are all grown with children of their own) for a non-traditional lunch of salad and spaghetti. My Father ate a large plate of spaghetti while everyone took turns talking to him. Next we went to the home of his younger brother, where young grandchildren were running around the house screaming, and instead of annoying my Father, he was more animated than he had been in days. Just watching them gave him more energy. We came home - and he took a long nap, woke to eat a good dinner (short ribs, mashed potatoes and asparagus), and watched a movie on TV. He dressed himself for bed, and was able to get on his bed without my assistance. As I type this, he is in his bed, reading a book that he wants to finish so he can start another that he got for Christmas. He's been reading for almost 45 minutes.
I think he's turned a corner.
As for me, I'm exhausted. Mentally, physically - and Tuesday morning I head down to South Carolina to visit my neglected garden and to spend time in my lab (my job in Arlington gives me 50 days of research 'release' days per year... which is quite generous). The Pointer Sisters are with me, as is Handsome Stan and perfect Haiku. We're all looking forward to about 10 days back in the Airstream, among the live oaks - curious if the garlic planted in October is doing okay (it should be) and excited about seeing the camellias. I'm looking forward to spending some dedicated time on manuscripts, and time thinking about grant deadlines I'd like to meet over the next six to nine months. I want to catch up with friends.
I had wonderful Christmases as a child. My Mother loved the season - made gingerbread men of all sizes, homemade fruitcake and german chocolate cake and homemade cinnamon buns... there was country ham and homemade yeast rolls... and even on her last Christmas, she put out packages after everyone when to bed. She had to keep the Santa thing going, right? This weekend I've tried to keep in mind that my Christmas is similar to how many people's Christmases are going - we all take our turn, and while some are lucky enough to miss a Christmas season doing something like caring for an elderly parent or a sick child - many, like myself, many are not. However the experience does teach you a valuable lesson, one you thought you knew (but perhaps only intellectually, and not in practice): Christmas isn't about the perfection of the wrapping, or in truth the present at all. It isn't about the fruitcakes and fudge. Sometimes it's about setting an alarm for 2 am so you can wake up your Father and empty his catheter. Which subsequently wakes the dogs up and sends you outside under a clear sky where you see an incredible star-filled sky. Sometimes it's about getting your Father to sing Jingle Bells with you, accompanied by the radio, on a drive to visit family. Sometimes it's just doing what needs to be done as best you can because it's the right thing to do. There will be other Christmases more festive in my future, but probably none when I'm more needed.
Note: While here, I found Christmas cards that I had made over the years - ones that my Mother had saved. I scanned them in so that I had them too, but thought they were appropriate tonight to upload here.
Merry Christmas to each of you.