Things are progressing rapidly here at The Havens. It is hard to ride the whirlwind.
My father was transplanted to his new apartment from the hospital. The first couple of days were “okay”, although he was very unhappy that he was not at his home. He expressed appreciation for all the work we had done to try to make the apartment feel familiar, to surround him with his familiar things, but stated categorically that it was “Not home.”
Of course it wasn’t. Truly he could not function safely in the home he designed, built, and loved for 30 years. It has too many stairs, it is at the end of a really bad driveway which is at the end of a really bad road, and far from all services. Etc etc etc.
After a couple of days of him being at the new apartment, unhappily trying to live in an environment he did not like, he began to lose all the ground he had made at the hospital. One day he could cook his breakfast. The next day he really couldn’t do it because he couldn’t find the ingredients in the refrigerator or in the cabinets. Jim went over a couple of times and once found an empty pan on a burner that was turned on, another time an attempt at a hard boiled egg that had boiled dry as my father sat in the living room. He could not find the food we brought him for meals and put in the refrigerator. He could not figure out how to operate the microwave.
For a couple of days he was happy to eat if food was provided for him. The visiting nurse and the physical therapist had him doing exercises but as he was performing the strengthening exercises each day his strength waned. In the course of about three days he went from being able to walk with his cane to not being able to even walk with the help of a walker.
Yesterday the visiting nurse called Hospice for an emergency initiation. Last night the Hospice agent came and did paperwork, about an hour later the Hospice RN came with new medications prescribed by the doctor for palliative care.
My father has not been out of bed at all for three days. My mother is staying with him, and for three nights out of the last four I have have been sleeping on a pallet on the floor to assist her with night time events. I have learned how to change a protective pad on the bed for an invalid, how to administer sublingual drugs. I have learned what it is like to try to move a dead weight, what it is like to listen to a strong person as they struggle to bring air into lungs that are filling with fluid.
I have learned what it is like to hold my father’s penis in my hand to guide it to a urinal so he can rid himself of urine without wetting himself. I have learned what it is like to have him tell me he needs to pee and find that yes indeed, he does need to but has already done so previously, and to deal with his humliation. I tell him that he changed me and cleaned me enough when I was a baby. Now it is my turn to do those services, lovingly and respectfully.
His cat Impy hardly leaves his side, except to eat and use the cat box. He knows something is happening with his person. Daddy is very comforted by that purr and sleek fur.
In retrospect, I see the decline as similar to what happens when you transplant a wild flower that has grown with it’s roots deep into the rocky subsoil. At first it might seem to do well as it is sustained by its reserves of strength. But then the lack of the root system and the huge radical change in environment hits, the plant withers and eventually dies. My father was transplanted too precipitously, and even though he was told in the hospital he was not ready. Of course, like that wild flower, he probably would never have been ready, and like the wild flower there was no way to extract him from his environment gently.
My shoulders are so sore — I should have been doing weight training to prepare me for the lifting that is necessary to move him in the bed, to raise him up so he can drink a sip of water. He no longer has the strength left to suck on a straw, we must hold a cup to his lips, give him ice chips.
My brother is here from Connecticut, my sister from Texas, my niece is here from Columbia. My little sister is trying to take care of the farm while my mother sits with my father. My clients are wonderfully supportive as I cancel their appointments. Jim cooks us all wonderfully sustaining food.
Our strawberry bed is producing succulent berries that for several days have been the only thing my dad cares to eat.
I came home to rest today, took a bath. Mallory guarded me as I bathed, stationed out in the hall just outside the bathroom. Then while I took a nap, she watched over me from the end of the bed.
Yesterday, I took Ruby for a walk out at Bennett Spring. As I was walking the gravel bar, I asked the place for a rock for Daddy. I meandered along, and suddenly a rock called my attention. It was partially buried in the gravel bar, and had a place that had a “cavern” worn into it. I picked it up, and saw the depths of the miniature cave were filled with gravel. I tapped it on my palm, the gravel fell out and I found that it was a holed rock, with several tunnels through it. I felt a huge “Oh!” in my heart, and I looked up to find that at that moment I was surrounded by over a thousand tiny blue butterflies, all flying about me in a beautiful iridescent cloud.
I took the rock to Daddy yesterday, and he was fairly lucid at the time I told him about finding it. He looked it over very closely, trying hard to focus on it. Eventually he found the tunnels through the rock to the light. Since then, through all the turnings and changings, the visit from Hospice, his Ativan fueled sleep, he has not let go of that rock. Whatever the message it carries to him, I think he received it.
Meanwhile, the young catalpa in the front yard is blooming.
The leopard frog in the pond has a mate.
There are poppies blooming.
The stroll garden is fantastic with dianthus and hostas and bluebells right now.
My quilt is finished. This is it hanging on the wall at the quilter’s workshop when I picked it up after she finished the quilting process.
A close up of the quilting work she did — so beautifully.
It is finished now. I sewed the binding on it the day after I brought it home, and whipped the back of the binding closed while sitting at my father’s bedside.
It has not been on the bed yet. Jim says he doesn’t want it on the bed until we can spend the night under it together.
Maybe tonight. It is someone else’s turn to spend the night on the pallet in the apartment.