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.