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Happy Father’s Day, Dad

on June 15th, 2014 by Rebeccca

Mom and Dad, June 2013

It’s Father’s Day. A year ago today I was with my parents in their condo, helping out with the parts of their lives that were becoming more difficult. . . cooking, cleaning, paying bills, driving. We had gone to church, of course. It was a rare time when my parents didn’t go to church on a Sunday morning. We were home, me making dinner, anticipating the arrival of my brother and his wife to celebrate Father’s Day together. Dad was in the bathroom. Mom was walking with her walker over to the couch to lay down a bit. And then she was on the floor.

“Mother! Are you okay?”
“I think I hit my head.”
“”Just lay here. I’ll get a pillow and a blanket for you and then we can see how you are.”
That little incident changed their lives, and mine, forever. Today I sit in a tiny apartment in a small town in Saskatchewan, just a 15-minute walk from where my mother lives in a nursing home. We had been considering this home as an option for my parents as the facility has both independent living and nursing care. My dad could live independently in one wing, and my mom could receive the care she needed in another wing. They could visit each other and be together for much of the day. But that plan for their future never came to be.
We had considered lots of options, once we realized that Mom was not using her legs and was unable to stand. (She seemed to give up after making a few attempts to walk during physical therapy after her hip operation). Keeping our parents together was our goal. We agonized over the options, making lists of pros and cons, trying to factor in the Health Authority’s system of placing people in long-term care and our own (my siblings and me) ability to assist. We visited places in person and talked with the heads of care. We tried to include our parents in these discussions, but they both just wanted life to return to how it had been – them together in their condo in their community.
Mom and Dad in Lanigan Hospital

Mom and Dad in Lanigan Hospital

It took a lot of work to come up with the three options that my sister presented to Dad while Mom was still in the hospital recuperating. And then everything changed again: Mom was being transferred from the hospital to the first available bed in a long-term care facility. Now all the work we had put in to planning their (and our) future was useless. A new set of circumstances needed to be considered.

And then things changed again. My father’s heart, lungs and kidney were failing and this affected his mobility and his thinking. He was slipping away, while fiercely hanging on to the lifestyle and person he was familiar with. At first he made the daily 20-minute drive to visit Mom in the care home, accompanied by one of his children. Then he was offered a two-week respite bed in the same facility. We moved him in on September 11.
He wasn’t sure why he was there. “I came in to visit Mom and now I’m in this bed.”
Mom's Birthday

Mom's Birthday

Mom was now more mobile than he was, wheeling herself down to his room every morning and faithfully sitting by his bed. After his two weeks of respite, they kept him there. He was too weak to return home. The last time he was up in a wheelchair was on Mom’s birthday, October 5. He had 26 more days of lying in bed, struggling to remove the oxygen mask, struggling to get up and go home.

“Help me!”
He wanted to get up.
“But Dad, you’re too weak to stand up.”
“Did we try?” he asks me accusingly.
And those were some of the last words he spoke to me. My strong, fearless father begging me to help him.
He slipped farther and farther away from us then, no longer squeezing my hand as I held his. But still he held on.
“You can go, Dad. We will take care of Mom.”
But he knew we couldn’t, really, take care of the woman to whom he had been married for 65 years.
And he was right. Nothing can really take his place, although we try.

So today I remember my dad. We didn’t really get to celebrate Father’s Day last year with Mom and me traveling to Saskatoon by ambulance. And this year he’s not here. But I can still celebrate his life, a life lived with integrity and love.
Thank you, Dad, for everything. You were a good dad. And yes, we are trying to take care of Mom.
| Posted in Life Stories, My Mom

One Response to “Happy Father’s Day, Dad”

  1. Claudia
    June 16th, 2014 at 4:50 am

    Dear Rebecca,
    What a touching note. I don’t follow Facebook very well (Fernand not at all), and although I knew your parents were in failing health, I don’t think I realized that your father had passed on. Our belated condolences.

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