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Posts Tagged ‘Drawings’

January 15, 2015

An amazing day with Dad!  I didn’t have enough energy and patience to try playing Rummykub with him, but I was determined to get him to write again.

drawing of Dad's room at Chelsea

Dad’s room at Chelsea

Typical resistance to taking a shower … no surprise.  When he came out of the bathroom wearing a clean shirt and smiling, I was ready to challenge him to writing a few words.  My only hope for success was to have him draw something first.  For whatever reason, drawing allows him to access his reservoir of words more easily.  he chose to draw the bottle of cough medicine with the disposable dosage cup turned upside down over the cap.

Dad's drawing of his cough medicine bottle

Dad’s drawing of his cough medicine

Certainly not a drawing that one might see hanging in a gallery, but that wasn’t the goal. When I asked him to try writing a few words, there was no hesitation, no resistance, no excuses.  Dad picked up the pen again and started writing.  I didn’t care what he wrote … he was finding words to write on the piece of white paper!  I thought I might never see that happen again.

Upside – down cup

Capping the bottle

Handy for a sip

In the middle of battle

Ah – ah – ah

Now we go 

To another venture

Either fast

Or slow

“What battle, Dad?” I asked.

“What battle is that”

She asks, quite puzzled.

“The battle of life —

Don’t you see?”

After expressing my delight in the words he found, I apologized for being such an ornery daughter.

My daughter’s not ornery, —

Just very interesting

Only fifteen more pages to go and Dad will have filled his green sketchbook with words and a few drawings.  I thought for sure, after a month of not being able to get him to write at all, the pages would never be filled.  You can’t imagine my joy.  All I need is energy and patience and the pages will be filled.

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Not Willy Nilly

December 6, 2014 – a rainy Saturday afternoon

It’s that time of year again, time to decorate Dad’s room at Chelsea for the upcoming holidays.

Dad's Ceramic Christmas Tree

Dad’s Ceramic Christmas Tree

 

While Dad showered I unpacked the ceramic Christmas Tree that Jane had carefully wrapped and stored in a box with the garland of red ornaments.  I hung the garland on the lamps and set the tree up on Dad’s card playing table.  Even after straightening up his room a bit, there was time for a quick drawing before Dad rejoined me, fresh and clean.

Ink and Watercolor sketch of Christmas Tree

Ink and Watercolor Sketch

Each time I visit with Dad, I learn more about how a brain processes information.  Before playing cards, I asked Dad to write a poem.  Expecting the normal response of being told that one needs to be inspired to write poetry, I suggested he write a poem for Jane that I could put into a Christmas card for her, a special gift from him.  He surprised me by immediately picking up his pen and writing quickly in his green book that I had placed on the table in front of him.  Much too quickly the task was completed. He put down his pen and closed the book.

“Wow Dad! That was fast!  Could you read your poem to me please?”

He opened the green notebook and stared somewhat blankly at the page.  After a few false starts he managed to read what he had written…

” Merry Christmas to Jane, My Jewel! AND May we have many more Together! Dave 2014″

Hmmmmm.

“Dad, That’s lovely. But…. it’s not a poem.”

I had suggested he write something I could put in a card for Jane.  That’s exactly what he did.  I decided to try again. He took a little longer this time, but not too much longer.

Christmas Time 2014

Oh my Jane, –

My message is the same, –

as last year. – :

A VERY Merry Christmas, –

and

a H A P P Y New Year !!

Much, much love, –

Dave

Once again, Dad struggled to read what he had written.  His second try was a cross between a greeting card message and a poem.  One more try…..

The weather is quite dreary

In fact, a bit chilly

You want from me a poem

But words coming seem silly

Now, the season is everything

But silly, –

It’s Christmas season for all

and that’s NOT will nilly

So light the candles, –

Ring the bells

It’s happy season for all, –

Well, do tell, do tell.

Dad closed the green notebook. I shuffled and dealt the cards.  My heart was smiling.

When Dad walked me to the door to wave goodbye, we searched the Chelsea Christmas Tree for his ornament.  Each year the staff makes an ornament for each of the residents.

photo of Dad's Christmas Ornament

Dad’s Christmas Ornament

Tis the season to be jolly…. and that’s NOT willy nilly.

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Today is Wednesday.  Usually, I visit Dad on Thursdays.  Due to poor connections and even poorer baggage tracking technology, I need to be home tomorrow.  Lucky for me, I visited Dad today. I didn’t want to miss another week of playing cards, walking, making sure he showered and shaved and, or course, forcing him to write a few lines of poetry.  Why was it lucky for me?  Because today the ice cream truck made its biannual stop at Chelsea. Free ice cream for all!  Some of the residents managed to get in line multiple times.  The ice cream lady tried to set the record straight but ended up handing over another strawberry shortcake on a stick.  Dad chose an Almond Crunch on a stick.  I chose an ice cream sandwich.

Dad enjoying his ice cream treat.

Dad enjoying his ice cream treat.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I arrived, Dad was having lunch in the dining room.  John sat across from him reading the newspaper as he ate.  A man I hadn’t met was sitting between them in Bunny’s seat.  He smiled as i approached and introduced himself as Bill.  Bunny had switched to the second serving and Bill had taken her place at the table.  Dad looked pretty spaced out and totally unengaged.  I chatted at him for a few minutes, then turned my attention to John and Bill.  Both were eager to converse.  Bill had retired from the Postal Service in Newark where he managed Overseas Mail Deliveries.  He loved his job and enjoyed his co-workers.  Clearly, his co-workers enjoyed him, too.  He riffled through the storage beneath his walker seat and brought out almost a dozen cards that recognized Friend’s Day.  He showed each one to me with a huge smile on his face.  The messages were caring and humorous.  Most of them referred to him as Willy Wonka.  I was grateful for the interaction as Dad slowly finished drinking his coffee. Eventually, we headed to his room with two bags filled with paper towels, toilet paper and undies.

“Oh, I don’t think I need a shower, do I?  I’m sure I took one this morning.” ….. conversation #23 …. we have it every time I visit.

“We can’t play cards until you have taken a shower AND written a poem.”

“Oh, Chris.”

“Dad, please take a shower.”

He shuffled off to the closet to get clean underclothing before heading into the bathroom.

“Remember to wash your hair with the green shampoo!”

A few minutes later, Dad shuffled out of the bathroom, went to the other closet, the one where his shirts and coats hang.  He placed the clean underclothing on the top shelf and headed back to the card table.

“Dad….. you need to take a shower…. please.”

Conversation #23 repeated again before Dad went back to the original closet to get another set of clean underclothes.  While Dad was in the shower, Dan called from the front desk to let me know the Ice Cream Truck had arrived and would be out front until 3pm.

Eventually a fresh smelling dad in clean clothes and nicely combed hair sat across from me at the card table.  He reached for the cards to deal them.

“Not yet, Dad.  You still have one more thing to do before we can play cards.”

“What’s that?”

“Write a poem.”

“Oh, Chris…. you know that’s not how that works…. ”  Conversation # 14…….

“After you finish writing a poem we can go to the Ice Cream Truck, Dad.”  A puzzled look crossed his face.

“Look through the window.  You can see the truck.  It will still be there when you’ve written your poem.  You can write it about anything, about the ice cream truck, about me forcing you to write poems, about wanting to play cards instead.”  I showed him his green book and how it was almost filled with the poems and drawings he has written over the past few years. I would love for every page to be written on and there aren’t that many blank pages left.  He reached for a pen and began to write.

The Reluctant Poet

The Reluctant Poet

“A poem”, she says

“A poem you must write.”

I guess I better get going

To make the day right.

I gaze out the window

While lounging in my chair

That should yield a good word or two

If I really do care.

And that I do

I can tell you.

Well, will that do?

I guess it must do!

“Great job, Dad.  Let’s go get some ice cream.”

We brought our ice cream back to his room where it wouldn’t melt in the heat of the burning sun.  Dad dealt the cards, Rummy 500.  As usual, he was brilliant, in the lead by more than three hundred points.  Then his luck changed and so did mine.  I ended up winning by a landslide, for a change.  In spite of the heat, I suggested we walk around the pond.  He agreed to going around ” just a few times.”

While I was away, Dad’s physical therapy sessions had been increased from three times weekly to five times weekly.  The positive results were apparent to me.  He stood taller and moved with greater agility.  I tricked him into walking around the pond more than just a few times by distracting him with a drawn out and slightly exaggerated tale of my recent face to face encounter with a wild boar in an olive grove during one of my morning walks in hills that surround Les Bassacs in Provence, France.  I seem to have a knack for attracting Sus scrofa, a species of the pig genus Sus, part of the biological family Suidae.  Dad took it all in stride, delighted that I walked each morning and each evening.

When I kissed him goodbye I told him that Lou and Dave would be visiting in a few days along with Anna and Howard.  He smiled.

“That will be wonderful.  I look forward to it.”

I treasure these days with Dad.

 

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April 17, 2014

No walk today.  Dad had an appointment with Dr. Bagley to have the Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Situ scraped and burned from his arm.

As might be expected when time for a shower is limited, Dad took an extra half hour in the bathroom.  We made it to the doctor’s with four minutes to spare.  We waited another ten before we were called to follow the nurse down the hallway.  While waiting, Dad  reluctantly agreed to draw and write.

Chair on floor, table on wall

Chair on floor, table on wall

Now, how did that happen?

The table ends up?

On the wall

Hmm, hmm

Though unable to comprehend the need for another visit to a doctor, Dad followed directions and climbed into the “procedure” chair.  The lovely nurse lifted the leg rest, bid him “Make yourself comfortable” and left the room.  Dad scowled and called out to her.

“I need this leg rest to be moved out!”

“I’m sorry Mr. Carter.  It doesn’t move out.  You’ll just have to shrink a bit.”

“If it doesn’t move out, then it’s a poorly designed chair.”

Dad trying to make himself comfortable in the poorly designed chair

Dad trying to make himself comfortable in the poorly designed chair

He lasted all of two minutes before flopping his legs off each side of the leg rest.

“It’s a terrible design.  It cuts off the blood circulation.”

Dr. Bagley arrived and the four of us enjoyed a short conversation regarding the chair.  the procedure took less than ten minutes.

Dr. Bagley performing the Scrape & Burn procedure on Dad's arm

Dr. Bagley performing the Scrape & Burn procedure on Dad’s arm

As the wound on Dad’s arm was being scraped and burned, the nurse shared her story of disappointing her engineer father by not being able to draw in perspective when taking classes toward an engineering degree (that she didn’t want to pursue anyway.  Her father had designed the GM facility in Linden, NJ.  During the design stage, a scaled model of the building lived on her dining room table forcing the family to eat in the kitchen for several months.  One evening her father was perplexed and asked what had happened to all of the bathrooms.  All fifty of them had been moved away from the elevator shaft area.  Her brother explained that her really didn’t like the way the bathrooms looked located next to the shaft and had taken it upon himself to make the layout a bit more visually pleasing.  Her father explained the reason for locating the bathrooms next to the shaft was that all the plumbing could be run through the shaft, saving a great deal of expense.  The brother  acknowledged that the reasoning was okay and took it upon himself to return all fifty bathrooms to the location in his father’s original design.

Priceless story, Priceless glimpse into the lives of others, the lives of children who grow up in families with inventive parents who include their children in the thought process from planning through to execution.  The nurse’s brother has followed in his father’s footsteps, designing the plumbing and ventilation systems in corporate buildings.  Just as her story ended, the procedure was completed and we headed out into the beautiful, sunny but chilly afternoon.  The smell of fresh cut grass, the first of the season, filled our nostrils and brought smiles to our faces.

Another good day with Dad.

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April 10, 2014

Each week the challenges change.  I recall my sister-in-law once telling me, “Life as a parent never gets easier, it just gets different.”  The same goes for being a daughter … “Life as a daughter never gets easier, it just gets different.

As I signed my name in the book I glanced over and saw Dad sitting in the dining room sipping coffee, alone at his table.  I approached.  He stared into space, eyes glazed, shirt stained, shoulders hunched.  There is no question in my mind that shaving is no longer a priority, nor should it be.  His walker was nowhere in sight.

“I guess I don’t need it.”

We returned to his room with his lukewarm coffee which he insisted on drinking in his chair before the task of showering, shaving and shampooing.  Half an hour later, I still couldn’t get him to release himself from the comfort of his chair.

 

Dad, content in his chair sipping coffee

Dad, content in his chair sipping coffee

I busied myself by gluing and clamping a broken chip of wood into another chair.  I traced the shadows of the window shades as they fell upon my sketchbook.  I sorted his newspapers, sifted through his laundry, made inventory notes on his calendar.  Still, he wouldn’t budge.  I handed him a pencil and his green book.

“Well then, Dad, I guess it’s time to write another poem.”

Blank expression…. no response.

“Drawing something usually helps you find your words, Dad.  How about drawing this stuffed owl?”

Dad smiled and set to work on drawing the owl and moved right along to writing his poem and agreeing to take a shower, though he remained grumbly about the idea of going shopping for new sneakers.

The owl drawing

The owl drawing

Inspirations galore,

Where do you start !

The sunshine from above, –

The breezes from somewhere.

The number of choices

Are infinite for sure

Make a choice now

And go for it, – go NOW.

Shave ….. Shower ….. (“Don’t forget to use that green shampoo when you wash your hair, Dad!” I shout through the door).  He came out of the bathroom with wet hair, but the level of the shampoo remained the same, not falling below the line of the rubber band used to keep track of whether or not it’s being used.

Halfway to the car I couldn’t bear to go shopping for sneakers.  The day was gorgeous and Dad looked so happy being outside in the sun with the blue, blue sky above.  The wind was gentle and the air smelled of spring… finally.

“Dad.  Change of plans.  We’re going for a walk instead of shopping for sneakers.”

Huge smile

“You did well last week at Lord Stirling Park.  What do you think about taking the walker for a more adventurous walk?  We made it through gravel and puddles at the swamp, do you think we can handle rocks and tree roots with this walker?”

“I guess we won’t know until we try, will we?” (How lucky am I to have a dad like this?)

I parked far away from the trail head so that we could still get a decent walk in if we couldn’t get very far along the rooty, rocky path.  The last time we visited Hofheimer Park we took the short path to the grotto.  This time I wanted to try the whole loop, ending up at the grotto.

Happy to be in the woods again!

Happy to be in the woods again!

I missed sharing the giant beech trees with Dad.  Severe storms had uprooted so many trees that the trail was too dangerous when Dad was using his cane for balance.  Why did I think it would be easier with the walker?  I didn’t.  But I wouldn’t have to worry about Dad falling.  We had developed a method for rough terrain last week at Lord Stirling Park.

Guiding Dad's Walker

Guiding Dad’s Walker

I walk ahead and slightly to the left with my right hand on the front of the walker to lift it slightly, keeping it from digging into mud, jamming against rocks or roots and making it easier for Dad to push.  Lucky for me, I was hanging onto the walker when I stepped in a deep hole hidden by leaves.

A rough and rocky road

A rough and rocky road

With each step Dad looked happier and more bright-eyed.  His stamina amazed me.

Walking along the smoother terrain

Walking along the smoother terrain

Walking on the boardwalk around the small pond at Chelsea tires him out more than climbing a steep trail over uneven ground strewn with obstacles while having both hands on an unhappy  walker. He is not as happy walking around the pond as he is surrounded by the giant beech trees.  We had reached the top of the hill and were on our way down before Dad requested a short break.

Taking a break

Taking a break

There had been several short stops for him to blow his nose. Fortunately I remembered a paper towel this time.  At Lord Stirling Dad had resorted to his tried and true method that he had learned as a boy on the farm. Dad taught me how to blow my nose without a hanky when we ran together in the morning before I boarded the bus for high school.  I’m pretty sure Alexis is practiced at the method of nose-blowing while running.  Dad has mastered the techniques.  His dementia has not stolen from him his expertise.  The visuals had been a bit dramatic last week and I made sure to stuff a paper towel in my bag this time around.

Remnants of a Home Run

Remnants of a Home Run

As usual, we found treasures along the trail.  “Looks like someone hit a home run, Chris ….. a long time ago.  I bet that was a good day!”  The tattered ball awoke memories of coaching my brother’s baseball team many, many years ago.  That lead to memories of Dad and I running our first run together around the parking lot of the school where he coached Howard’s team.  Dad had just purchased the first edition of Aerobics and wanted to test it out.  We continued to run together until I left for Germany after graduating high school.

The aerobic runners, forty-six years later

The aerobic runners, forty-six years later

Trees were terribly bare for this time of year.  Spring has been so late in coming.  A few bits of green appeared on tired branches.

A hint of spring.

A hint of spring.

The algae glowed with the pride of being greener than anything else in sight.

Spring algae

Spring algae

We made it all around the loop and stopped in at the grotto before returning to the car.  There will be more good days to come and more not-so-good days to come.  There will come a day when we will no longer be able to walk the rocky, rooty trails together.

Almost at the bridge, but not quite yet.

Almost at the bridge, but not quite yet.

We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. We may be close, but we’re not there yet.

 

 

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Happy Birthday Jane!

Before I left for Maryland I wanted to make sure that I nudged another poem from Dad’s heart.  Dad smiled, picked up pencil and paper and began to write……..

Dad writing Birthday Poem for Jane

Dad writing Birthday Poem for Jane

Dear Jane

Birthdays come

But one day a year

It’s a day to remember, –

A day to cheer.

Especially you, Jane

For you always have smiles, –

And they come from down deep, –

Mile after mile.

That must be why

I always look forward

To seeing and throwing you a kiss

Every once and a while.

Much love,

Dave

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Father’s Day 2013 …. A gorgeous day for a walk with Dad….

Chris and Dad on Father's Day 2013, Leonard J. Buck Gardens, Far Hills, NJ

Chris and Dad on Father’s Day 2013, Leonard J. Buck Gardens, Far Hills, NJ

The frogs croaked loudly, harmonizing with the screaming mating call of the cicadas when I arrived at Chelsea to spend Father’s Day with Dad.  I awoke him from his slumbers.  Forget the shower…. we’re going for a walk on this beautiful day!

oops…… Leonard J. Buck Garden doesn’t open until noon.  No problem.  Dad had missed breakfast. I had whisked him off without even a cup of coffee.

Coconut Truffles for breakfast?

Coconut Truffles for breakfast?

There’s a lovely cafe just up the road from the garden.  While Dad held our table, I ordered breakfast….. double cappuccino, bran muffin, spinach quiche and coconut truffles. Dad was a bit confused by starting the day with coconut truffles while we waited for our quiche to be heated.  Perfect time to write a poem.

Patches of Blue

A table out front

Of a sidewalk cafe

We sit in bright sun

Daughter, Chris and I

The sun shines brightly

Upon the paper I write

The cars roll by

The pedestrians are chattering.

The sun shines so brightly

Upon the paper I’m writing

While Chris waits expectant

For something to be “said”.

But, words seem to delude me

a most common thing

Words are most powerful things

If carefully used.

Watching Dad ponder over his words while the quiche cools.

Watching Dad ponder over his words while the quiche cools.

We returned to Leonard J. Buck Garden, greeted by open gates.

Admiring beauty

Admiring beauty

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to walk the gardens, the paths drenched in the fragrance of blossoms bursting from the wet, spring weather.

Walking without destination

Walking without destination

We tackled one of the steeper paths and rested on a bench when we reached to top of the hill.  Dad commented on the noise of the cicadas.  It was a perfect time for me to pull out the letter I had written for him seventeen years ago.  He listened intently as I read it aloud.

Seventeen Years Ago

Seventeen Years Ago

At the end, he patted my knee and nodded.

The descent

The descent

Climbing up the hill was far easier than descending.  My heart was in my throat most of the time.

“Steady, Dad….. steady.”

He made it down safely.  Stopped, took a deep breath and looked up at the sky.

Reflections

Reflections

We stopped one more time to rest on a bench beside the pond.  We sat in silence for a long time until Dad remarked, “Life is good.”

“Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Yes, life is good.”

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