Monday, April 23, 2007

Peanut butter and Nilla wafers

The Original Perfect Post Awards – April 2007

My daddy has been on my mind. The transition he and Momma have recently made from California to Tennessee has not been easy on either of them. But Daddy is happier now. He sleeps better. He eats better. The anxiety doesn't overtake him everyday. Saying "better than in California" is hardly saying much, but it's the only comparison to make.

Still though, his life is defined by how well his medications work that day. Forgetting to take something means that it will be a bad day. Waking up at 3:00 AM and thinking it is 6:00 AM, thereby eating breakfast and taking your 7:00 AM medications at 4:00 AM means, that it will be a bad day.

A bad day: A day in which anxiety and nervousness overtake Daddy's ability to function. Eating is out of the question. Dressing himself is out of the question. Sitting down or getting up by himself is out of the question. Sleeping that night will most likely be out of the question.

While in California, my momma consistently told me that I didn't understand what he was really like because I wasn't there from day to day. "You've just caught him on a bad day," she would say when I would call him on the phone and he wouldn't know who I was.

Now that he is in Tennessee, both my mother and my brother give me reports on him. My momma's reports are tempered in hope, or possibly stubbornness. A bad day can possibly be followed by a good day. A bad day can possibly be fixed or prevented with medication. A bad day is just that - a bad day. In my momma's voice you can hear her defiance against the Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. You can hear her missing her husband above all else.

My brother's reports are more to the point. How much weight Dad has lost. How many times Dad got lost in the house. How little Dad is sleeping. How I need to be coming to see Dad soon before too much more of him slips away. In my brother's voice you can hear frustration. I think that I hear resolve some days for being the chosen one to have to deal with it. I know I hear strength.

But me. My firsthand information only comes from too short visits and phone calls. Daddy perks up on the phone with me. I know he is trying to put on his best. I have done the same for him all of my life. Even on a bad day, he will get on the phone with me and tell me that he is making it. His voice cracking and shaking with the Parkinson's induced anxiety, "I'm getting by, Sweetheart. Don't worry about your Daddy," he'll tell me.

Today, Guy and I went to see a lawyer about drafting our wills and other legal documents. As we went through the questionnaire with her about our assets, insurance, and such, we came to the section about "what if we both meet an untimely death or are incapacitated simultaneously?"

Who would we want managing our finances while we laid in the hospital in our comas? In a shared room of course, with mourners, secret twins, and a dramatic soap opera soundtrack in the background.

I opened my mouth to say, "My daddy."

When all that came out was an audible squeak, I looked at Guy, and he said, "Schmoopie, you're crying."

And I was. Right there in the lawyer's office. I started to cry and I had a hard time stopping.

All of the things I used to rely on my Daddy to be, he can't be now, and all of a sudden, I missed him desperately. I wanted his advice on selling my house. I wanted his advice on buying a new car. I want his advice at least once a week, and it is not available anymore. And I saw my mother and how much she misses him in a whole new light.

Asking for his opinion or for help causes his anxiety to go through the roof. There is also the factor that whatever answer he might give you to your question was valid most likely 30 years ago. Or it is to an entirely different question. The main problem though is that it brings on the anxiety that is so bad for him. So I do not ask.

The last time I was with my daddy was in December. We were visiting for Christmas and I lost the baby while we were there. I didn't want my parents to come up to the hospital because I knew that would send Daddy right over the top. The next day though, I wanted him. I wanted him to comfort me, to hug me, and to be my daddy. So I requested a snack. Our snack. Peanut butter and Nilla wafers. He fixed me three little sandwiches and brought them back to the bedroom. He sat clumsily on the edge of the bed and put his stiff bony arm around my shoulders and patted. He patted and said, "I love you, Babe."

Parkinson's and Alzheimer's will never touch Daddy's heart.


  1. Oh, Sweetie. Now I miss him too. What a lovely post.

  2. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. It's great that you are remembering him for who he was and who he still is in his heart, he would want it that way, and for his loved ones to know who he has become is just the illness. Big hugs.

  3. When I think of your daddy, I think of this mischievous smile he would get when he was thinking of something really clever and perhaps a bit smartass. He would display this grin when he chose to keep this comment to get the exact expression:)

  4. Awww, I'm so sorry. We went through a similar situation with my grandmother and it was so hard to see her as she was and not as the strong, Jesus-loving grandma she used to be. Just don't let the bad days dampen your memories of the good days. He's still your Daddy and he still loves you very much!

  5. Again, you write your emotions so beautifully!!!

  6. I feel so sad for you, I am so sorry you all have to go through this. You are ALWAYS in my thoughts and prayers.

  7. Watching a loved one deal with Parkinson's (much less Alzheimer's as well) is, it's tragic. I helped my mother care for my grandmother for many years as her Parkinson's worsened. She also suffered from Bipolar disorder, so she had some of the same mental symptoms as patients with Alzheimer's. I fed her from a spoon, as if she were a baby; I helped change her diapers, watching her watch her own loss of dignity. I'm thankful for my experiences in caring for her though. I feel "prepared" for death in a different way. For the "ugly part" of illness and aging that actually taught me what beautiful gifts life, love, sweat, tears, and caring for other people really are. My daughter learned this too because she was with me and/or my mother daily at the nursing home. She learned the value of taking care of people when they need you. Even the strangers. The old people who were sick and had no family who visited. My daughter would color a picture for them or give them a hug. Your father is so lucky to have a spouse and children who are devoted to making his life as comfortable as possible, and I pray that you're able to find peace with such a difficult process.

  8. Oh my goodness...this just made me cry and cry and cry.
    What a wonderful post for your Daddy.

  9. I am so sorry that you and your family are going through this. Your parents both sound amazing.

  10. Such a lovely, poignant tribute to your dad. Thank you.

  11. Your post was heartbreaking, but also a beautiful tribute to your dad. He sounds like a wonderful person and a fantastic daddy.

    I'm so sorry you have to go through this. You and your family will be on my heart.

  12. I clicked over from OTJ's page. This was such a beautiful post.

    I lost my grandfather to Alzheimers long before he died and I can't even imagine watching one of my parents go through this.

  13. That is so beautiful. It made me cry. And miss my daddy too.


  14. Definitely a perfect post. I'm so sorry for your heartache. I miss my Daddy, too.

    Know that your Daddy lives forever in your heart, and will always be well and happy there.

  15. I'm sorry.
    I send you hugs and love...

    This was a wonderful post!

  16. Thanks to OTJ for linking up to this touching post. My grandfather also had alzheimers it is heartbreaking but there are those moments the nila wafers and peanut butter...

  17. I'm glad I followed OTJ's link to your touching tribute to your father. He's lucky to have you.

    I helped my mother care for my grandmother in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's. It's hard for me to imagine how difficult that time must have been for my mother. I know it was heartbreaking and very emotional for me.

    I'm glad I stopped by.

  18. Very sweet. I love my daddy the same way. I wish I could save your tears in a special vial where blooms of joy will some day last longer-- because you know how much longer they should.

  19. I came here from OTJ and I'm glad I did; thanks for sharing this beautiful post with all of us in cyberland. I can't imagine what you're going through with your dad. I'm sending my thoughts and prayers your way.

  20. So touching!

    My Daddy's pretty special too and I can't imagine what you're going through.

  21. Poignant and beautiful.

  22. Remove shell, extract peanut. Toss shell somewhere. Return peanut, bare, and naked, to your mouth. Taste it fully as you chew the earthy taste of the simple peanut. Packed with protein, served with panache in that cradling shell, the peanut is about as good as it gets in the simple goodness of life.