In 1997, about a year after Mom’s aneurysm and Dad’s stroke, they were again living together (with much family and home healthcare involvement) and taught each of us about adversity and spirit, particularly my father. After an initial adjustment, not much got him down.
He seemed to develop an appreciation for little things – a sunny day, a picnic lunch, fresh Italian bread dipped in a tomato and cucumber salad, a visit from someone he loved. He’d still become frustrated when he wanted you to understand something he wanted to say, but mostly, his attitude remained positive. Here was a man in the last years of his life, unable to walk or speak or wipe his own bottom. Yet his smile was radiant and spoke what he no longer could.
He’d always been a proud man and while we were growing up, he was often too proud (of us?), too pompous, too overbearing. How many times did I wish him silent? How many times did I kick and scream against his authority? If I could do it over, I would still kick and scream (it’s part of the child/parent relationship, after all), but I would also hug him more, ask his opinion more, sit beside him reading a book on a Sunday afternoon … more. I know it sounds cliché, but only until it happens to you.
Recently, I was thinking of my dad and something that happened a few years after his stroke … He indicated (“doe” was the only word he was able to speak) to my brother, Carl that he wanted to go Christmas shopping. Carl was surprised (Dad didn’t ‘do’ shopping, Mom did), but figured he wanted to purchase a gift for our mother. They went to the local mall and Dad picked out a beautiful diamond tennis bracelet with a steep, unaffordable price tag.
I was out of state at the time and my brother called to ask what he should do. I had financial Power of Attorney and knew they didn’t have this kind of money to spend. Our mother wasn’t a diamond bracelet kind of girl anyway. She wouldn’t appreciate the gesture, would probably tell him so and hurt his feelings. He put Dad on the phone.
I suggested they look at silver charms for a necklace she sometimes wore, less expensive and more her style. “Dad, you don’t have the money for diamonds and Mom doesn’t have the taste.”
My brother called back a few minutes later, “He won’t leave the store until we buy the bracelet.” My brother is a big guy and I laughed, imagining what other customers must be thinking, “Just push the wheelchair out the door. He’ll have to come with you.”
“I tried that,” he said. “He’s dragging his foot and won’t let me move the chair without making a scene.”
Again, I laughed, but obviously something more was going on and we didn’t understand. We decided they would purchase the bracelet, put it on my brother’s charge card and we’d all pitch in to cover the cost.
Again, my cell phone rang. “Okay,” my brother said. “Now he also wants to buy a gold necklace.”
“Get him out of that store!”
“He won’t budge.”
“You’re a big guy, Carl.” I wasn’t laughing anymore.
“And just so you know,” he said, then paused. “The necklace he wants to buy is for Mom. The bracelet is for you.”
Now, I was quiet. For me? I’m like my mother – not the diamond bracelet type. In the end though, they ‘bought’ both items (we worked it out). It was important to him.
Again cliché, but … the bracelet is beautiful and certainly has sentimental value, yet in his last years my dad had so much more to offer than diamonds.
Okay, I admit it. I love AARP magazine and website (www.aarp.org). This month they have a great article ‘5 Ways Puzzles Improve Your Mind-Your brain on games’ – http://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-03-2011/playful-brain-adaptation.html I think I should have stretched my brain a bit before playing. Ouch!