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Posts Tagged ‘Family History’

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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Last week, I finally sorted through several boxes of papers I saved when we cleared out Dad’s house.  Among the papers, I found a letter I wrote to Dad seventeen years ago.  Now, as I retype the letter to share with you on Father’s Day, the seventeen year cicadas are again singing their mating song…… quite loudly!

17 year cicada

17 year cicada

Father’s Day 1996

Out of bed early, as usual, later than a weekday morning, but early nonetheless.  The first alarm sounded at four-thirty…… roused the kids at seven.  both Nicole and Mike had games this morning so the three kids spent Friday night with us instead of their father picking them up last night.

What a pleasant evening we had.  Mike explored the farmer’s fields on his mini bike and then joined the girls in the pool to splash off the day’s heat and to taste the freedom of the weekend.  The sky exploded with the threats of a storm but amounted to nothing more than thunder.  After the sun set we all joined together in the living room to watch a movie Tom had picked up on the way home, Parenthood, in honor of Tom’s first year as a parent.

I left for the ball fields before the rest of the family.  They would follow later in the van.

The morning air blew cool against my bare skin and the sun painted long, shadowed, morning patterns across the fields.  My right leg ached as always.  I have to run on the right side of the road.  The tilt of the left side tortures my aging, damaged body.

Hah!  Aged and damaged.  I felt like a million dollars this morning as I ran past the cornfield that draped the gentle contours of the land like a chenille bedspread across a sleeping body.  Another half mile and my body would find a comfortable rhythm.  Another half mile and perhaps my mind would empty the clutter that raced through it.  Dad always says that a walk clears the head.  Dad always says that a walk is a good time for ideas to flow, to form, for thoughts to sort themselves out and solutions to emerge.  Dad always said that taking car of my health is a priority.

Among the clutter of thoughts that fought for my attention lay the dilemma of a Father’s Day gift for Dad.  For months I’d been thinking about it.  In the past, money was always a factor.  Now, it’s not.  Now it’s even harder to decide on a gift because I have the freedom to choose something very special.  Hmmmmm. No more airplanes, no more kites, no more books, they’re not what I want this time.  Hmmmmmmm.

The screeching drone of the cicadas steals my attention.  I try to think of what they sound like.  What else have I heard in my forty-four years of life that sounds like the deafening sound of cicadas enjoying wild sex after seventeen years underground?  Hmmmm.  I’m a bit like a cicada myself.  I lived buried, in a way, for seventeen years, too.  Now I’m out of the ground having great sex.  But I’m luckier than the cicada.  I get to stick around for a while.  Ah!  I know the sound.  Every Halloween, stores stock a noisemaker for children, an oval-shaped tin box that revolves around a short stick held in a child’s hand.  With a whipping, circular motion, the child can get it going.  If amplified a hundred fold, it might sound like the mating of horny cicadas.

Whew!  Glad I figured that one out.

I turn right, onto Woodglen Road.  The fragrance of the wild roses saturates the air.  With each deep breath my mouth is coated with another layer of sweetness.

I feel strong.  My body is tan.  My legs are showing muscles that have lay hidden for too many years.  Running is good for me.  Running has always been good for me.  I started running a long time ago.

there I was this morning, running to a ball park.  Thirty years ago, I started running in a parking lot next to a ball park where Howard played.  Dad and I decided to try out something new called Aerobics.  Around and around we ran.  We ran together that night and we ran together for the next few years.  We awoke early.  We watched the sun rise together.  We turned the last bend together calling out “Home stretch!” and we ate breakfast together after showering (not together).  Dad went off to work and I went off to high school.  I liked the feeling of already having done something worthwhile before I even stepped up into the giant yellow school bus.

I was the only girl that ran in my high school.  I often skipped lunch to run.  Students and teachers couldn’t figure out what made me do it.  I didn’t care … it cleared my head.  It made me feel strong.

Thirty years later, I have a new partner to run with, Alexis.  I smile, knowing that in thirty years she will still hold precious the memories of our morning runs together as i hold precious the memory of runs with Dad.

Dad and I didn’t really care how fast we ran.  We wanted to be side by side to share a favorite tree, to smell the same smells, to share ideas.  I learned how to spit while running as well as how to blow snot out of my nose without getting it on my face.  Dad taught me those useful skills.

…. A jeep passed, leaving me in a vacuum, a void, robbed of all smells and sensations.  Gradually the void filled once again with life.  I checked my body…. legs fine …. lungs fine.  Hmmmm. Still no brilliant idea for a Father’s Day gift.

I ran past a garden filled with peonies in full bloom.  Mine didn’t bloom this year.  I moved them.  Maybe the ants couldn’t find them.  If the ants don’t eat away the covering of the bud, the peony won’t bloom.  Hmmmm. I wonder if I could make a picture book based on the relationship between ants and peonies.  Illustrations exploded inside my head.  I began to think of a possible storyline.  Dad would think of a good one, I’m sure.  Dad is so incredibly good at making up short stories that teach simple, and sometimes not so simple, lessons.  I wish I had his ability to tell stories.  Hmmmmm. Stories…… Writing.

Not only did Dad play a major part in my physical well-being by getting me on the road to running, he played a major role in my life as a writer.  Mom, too.  both Mom and Dad read to us all the time.  Dad and Mom are a good team.  they are honorable.  They are honest, They are caring and loving.

I arrive at the ball field.  Only on Dad and his daughter are there before me.  Within the next twenty minutes, the field behind the school fills with children and parents.  Four games are beginning, two softball and two baseball.  Michael’s game is first, at nine, then Nicole’s at eleven.

Tom Donelly umps Michael’s games.  He’s a perfect ump.  I met him fifteen years ago.  He owns Autumn Harvest, the health food store in Scotch Plains.  He lives near the Bunnvale Library.  His son, Joel, goes to school with Michael.  They play baseball together.  Tom looks like he stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting, his baggy pants, his cap on backwards, his slight build, the dusty rose rag that hangs from his right pocket, the stance, the movements.  And, he is fair.  he is incredibly fair, never showing favoritism.  Dad was like that when he coached Howard;s team.  A lot of parents didn’t like Dad’s fairness because it meant losing games sometimes.  But Dad doesn’t know how to live life any other way.  I think some of that fairness rubbed off on me.

I haven’t always played life fairly, but I’ve tried to.  When push came to shove I played fair because I didn’t know any other way, either…. just like Dad.

As I sat at the ballgame watching Michael play, watching Nicole take photographs of interesting things (Dad also got me interested in photography and helped me with my first darkroom that Mom was kind enough to allow me to set up in the kitchen after the sun went down), I decided that the best gift I could give Dad is my shared thoughts and reflections of our times together and the influence, the incredibly powerful influence he has had on my life….. and I am grateful.

Thanks, Dad.  I love you.  Happy Father’s Day!

Love,

Chris

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Last week, Thursday, February 7, 2013 in preparation for Valentine’s Day

Without hesitation, Dad began to write ……

Dad writing love poem for Jane

Dad writing love poem for Jane

A poem seems fitting

This Valentine;s Day

For someone I love

Who’s name, I say

Is Jane

Whenever I think of her

I picture a smile

For, it is there,

All the while

It’s her style!

Focused on love

Focused on love

Dad has forgotten so many things, so many people, so many years of his life.  What he has not forgotten are the children of the world  and the loved ones who bring so much joy to his life.

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The name Lawrence Pitzer came up on one of our earlier walks.  Lawrence was the father of Dad’s classmate.  Dad mentioned that Lawrence was the National Corn Husking Champion.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On our way to Natirar we stopped and bought wraps for our picnic.  Dad appeared to be disoriented, both in the car and in the deli.  He surprised me with his rapid choice of wrap.  “I’ll have a Veggie Wrap”, he declared.  Usually has meat.

Tracking down sounds

The sounds of children and cars parking next to the picnic area distracted Dad in a way I haven’t noticed before.  Fortunately, the disorientation and distractions didn’t detract from his appetite.  During lunch I mentioned to Dad that I had been going through a box from the house in Martinsville.  I reminded him that he had told me that his friend’s dad was the National Corn Husking Champion.

“Yup….. Lawrence Spitzer.  He was my classmate’s father.”

“I found the program for the Pitzer Jubilee Banquet in 1939!”

Program for Pitzer Jubilee Banquet, 1939

“Yup …. the invention of the corn picker put an end to those contests.”

And so began a fascinating conversation that brought me back in time when all of the gathering of corn for livestock was done by hand!  The farmers walked the rows picking and shucking simultaneously.  The trick was to watch the weather and make sure the husks would be dry enough to break off and husk (or shuck) in one motion.

The banquet was quite the affair ….

Banquet Program

The menu consisted of tomato juice, fruit juice, combination salad, baked ham, green beans, candied sweet potatoes, hard and soft rolls, butter, coffee, ice cream and cake.  There were musical performances and speeches.  The reception committee numbered thirty: twelve at the door, five at the east aisle (my grandfather was one), six at the west aisle, seven for distinguished guests.

Lawrence Pitzer’s Record

It turns out that Lawrence won many championships between 1932 and 1939.

I googled his name and found the history of the Corn Husking Competitions online.  Lawrence, of course, was mentioned.

Another farm just across the field from NFS hosted the 1932 state corn husking contest, and boasted local farmer Lawrence Pitzer as the winner. He was amongst the five top national finishers in 1935 as they shucked to new world’s records. In 1939, Pitzer won the national contest held in Kansas in a town fittingly named Lawrence.” (from online history of corn husking events)

My grandfather and Owen, the farm hand, shucked corn from dawn to dusk for three weeks straight.  Workers would often come up from Kentucky to help with the shucking.  My grandfather would hire one of them for one dollar a day.  He thought that was a pretty good deal.  He would brag about it to the uncles at the family reunions.

My grandmother cooked enormous meals during shucking time.  It was women’s work to keep plenty of food on the table, three times a day.

“I remember Dad and Owen coming in for dinner with holes in their gloves from shucking corn.”

Eventually all the farmers had corn picking machinery and the contests died out.

After the wraps were gone and the story told it was time to write and draw. I met with the usual resistance.

Pencil to paper

To write a poem

Is the aim

If it doesn’t happen

I’m the one to blame

Putting pencil to paper, —

That alone won’t do it.

Putting the brain in gear

Let’s say —– how do we do it?

Look up to the sky, —

Scan the trees, —

Put pencil to paper casts a shadow

For Chris to sketch, don’t you see?!

We set out on our walk.  Dad’s stamina was low.  We walked the short loop, stopping at every bench and sitting on each bench for a long time.

Resting

Clouds sweep the sky

While breeze airs the armpits

As we sit on the bench —

Chris and I

On to the next bench:

Resting from a walk

Less than 3 minutes in length

More to follow

As we gain gain strength

Cumulus clouds gliding

Slowly cross the sky

Feet throbbing our heartbeats

We lean back with a sigh

Several benches later:

Another short walk

Another short stop

Sitting on a bench

Feeling our hearts throb

The last bench of the day:

Reading the words

I have written before

I find less than remarkable

Surely I could do better!

But at least we are trying

Daughter Chris and I

These hot summer days

Are relished, I say.

08/09/12

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Dad has just returned from spending a wonderful week with Jane and her family in Cape Cod.  On their last day, as Jane signed the guestbook, Dad wrote this incredible poem!

Seen from the porch

The Scene is serene

It’s where sea and sky blend

And sailboats bob by.

The breeze ruffles Jane’s hair

As she reads, then looks up and smiles

Ah, that smile that so beams

Almost always, it seems.

Lift pencil from paper

For no more need be said

Too many words hide the story

Detracting from the glory.

I’m about to leave my house to pick Dad up and bring him for his B12 shot before we take our walk.  I couldn’t resist posting this poem first, along with some photos I found while he was away.  We have been going for walks together, as adults, for a very long time!

The Great Swamp. Gramps with Mike on his shoulders

Always the teacher, pointing out interesting things….

The boardwalk at The Great Swamp, 1987

Nicole exploring at The Great Swamp, 1987

 

A walk through the woods, 1995

Sharing Curiosity, 1995

At the Reservoir, 1995

Always curious, always excited about discovering new treasures that nature offers us!  What a Dad!

 

 

 

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It has been a difficult week…..

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I drove my brother to the train station this morning.  I handed him a pencil and Dad’s green sketchbook. Dad is in Amherst, Massachusetts with Anna prior to joining Jane and her family in cape Cod.

Thinking of what to write

Pencil to paper

she says

or no lunch

too many thoughts

none simple

time is so special —-

I’ll hug my sister

Perhaps I should backtrack to last Thursday …….

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I picked Dad up early.  I was distracted by the fact that I would be visiting with the kids’ Dad after having lunch and a nice walk with Dad.  Michael was diagnosed with lung cancer last November and was not doing well.  We had a date to play music together, something we hadn’t done for about eighteen years.  Michael and I met rock climbing in 1977.

Rock Climbing in Boulder Canyon

In addition to rock climbing, we both loved playing music.

Michael playing banjo

Dad’s was ready to go when I arrived.  We stopped in at the physical therapy room so that I could find out what the adjustments are on the machine he can work out on every day if he wants to.

Dad working out

After a short, ten minute work out, we drove to Hofheimer Grotto.  But not before a serious photo shoot of the fish tank.

Goldfish No. 1

Goldfish No. 2

We decided to walk the trail backwards, starting at the grotto.  Of course, Dad had no recollection of seeing the grotto before.  In fact, he didn’t really know what it was.

Puzzling over the geology

“You look puzzled, Dad.”

Hofheimer Grotto

“I’m wondering about this strange geology.  This must have been created by changing water levels.”

I remembered our visit to Watkins Glen State Park many years ago.  Every twenty steps Dad would give another geology lesson to the kids, telling them how many billions and billions of years the layers of rock represented.

“Dad, this is a man made structure.”

Cement and Rocks

He didn’t believe me until I pointed out the cement that holds the rocks in place.  We moved on ……

The theme for the day turned out to be Tree Graffiti.

Tree Graffiti No. 1

Tree Graffiti No. 2

Dad waited patiently as I veered off the path to snap dozens and dozens of photos of wounded trees.  Notice the initials “KS” in the upper right corner.

Dad waiting patiently

“Hmmmmm…..”KS” ……… that reminds me of a girlfriend I once had….. Katherine Stokes.”

Katherine Stokes and Dad were twelve years old.  Katherine was blonde, short and of medium stature.  Her father owned one of the two general stores in Odell, Indiana.  Odell was small and could support only one general store.  Katherine’s father went bankrupt.  John P. Hatt’s general store did not.  Katherine had a half-brother named Carl Dinwitty.

Katherine’s best friend was Lucille Schultz.  Lucille’s boyfriend, John Borum, was a friend of Dads.  the four of them would go behind the church and kiss.

Fascinating Tree growth No. 1

I continued to be distracted by the trees.

Natural Tree Sculpture

When we arrived back at the car I handed dad his book and sketched the trees as Dad wrote about Odell, Indiana.

Not very fascinating trees

Odell, Indiana

It was a little village, about 3 miles from the farm.  John P. Hatt owned the only store there and I believe he sold ice cream cones (as well as eggs, flour, gloves, etc.)  For a little while, a second store was owned by Russell Stokes, my girlfriend’s father, but two stores was probably too much for one little po-dunk village to support.  I wonder where she is now, — if she’s still around — an old lady in a rocking chair ?!

I remember being told to hurry up and eat the ice cream cone — it was melting (Wow!  the things that you remember !)

We stopped at the grocery store to buy our lunch and had a picnic in Dad’s room before I left for South Orange.

My visit with Michael was wonderful.  We talked and laughed and played music together …. Will the Circle Be Unbroken, John Hardy and one that I didn’t know.  It was just two chords, G and D, mostly D.  Mike then played me Tennessee Waltz on his pedal steel guitar.  Though he clearly was weak, I understood why he and Karen were still hoping for the best.  He was due to have another scan in a week’s time to see if he was responding to the third treatment.  We agreed to get together again in a week or two.  He asked me to bring my fiddle the next time.  There would be no next time.  Michael passed away two days later.

My brother caught a train from New Hampshire to come to the service. He and Michael had always enjoyed one another.  They both were rock climbers and woodworkers.  I was climbing with my brother  when I first met Michael.

Climbing with Michael in Boulder Canyon, 1977

I am grateful for my family, friends, siblings, for my children and for my husband, Tom.  I am fortunate.

I dropped Howard off at the train station this morning …….

Memories mingling with words

Pencil to paper

she says

or no lunch

too many thoughts

none simple

time is so special —-

I’ll hug my sister

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Patience is not one of my strengths, especially on a hot, humid day in the middle of July in New Jersey.  I do my best to keep a sense of humor throughout the weekly, bizarre visits with my dad.  His eternal optimism and positive outlook on every aspect of life saves the day every time.  If he wasn’t so damn much fun to be with I might just strangle him to get it over with.

If you have a judgmental look on your face right now, you have not yet dealt with a loved one suffering from dementia of one sort or another.  Hopefully, you will be spared that challenge.

Thursday, July 12, 2012:

Feltville General Store, Church and School

I emptied my refrigerator into the big yellow, thermal bag and tossed in a few ice packs.  Peanut butter and jelly is easy and lightweight.  Dad loves whatever I bring for lunch.  Unfortunately, I was out of bread.  It gave me the opportunity to make up for the lousy lunches of the last few weeks.

Where would we go today?

Criteria #1 …. (really the most important criteria of all from now on) …. Restrooms!

Criteria #2 ….. picnic table for the fancy picnic

Criteria #3 …. somewhat even ground and trails that offer a small enough loop to get back to the car before fatigue changes the odds for falling.

Criteria #4 …. somewhat close to Chelsea so we aren’t driving around in a hot car too long.

Criteria #5 …. someplace we haven’t been in a while.  I needed a change of scenery. Dad doesn’t.  We could go to the same place every week and it will be new for Dad.  He doesn’t remember going to any of the trails we’ve explored over the past year, even the ones we go to on a regular basis.

We headed for Feltville. (read more about Feltville from the post of our first visit to this fascinating place.)

Meeting Criteria One

Modern, clean restrooms are located at the back of the main building, the General Store.  I checked to see that they were unlocked and in service before we walked further down the road to the picnic area.

Picnic Tables, Criteria Two

Dad thought the bottle of dressing was a juice drink (I think).  When I explained that it was dressing, he poured it over his pasta and vegetables rather than his salad.  I’m sure it tasted yummy.

Salad, Pasta and veggies, Cherries

Unlike last week, Dad initiated conversation, of sorts, on the drive to our destination.  Last week he was utterly silent and relatively unobservant of the surroundings as we passed them by.  Today, his dial must have been set to Standard Conversation Number Two – Clouds in Sky, Large Trucks and Tall Towers.  After our lively car conversation I was hopeful that our after-lunch brain games might be less frustrating for me than last week.  I began with a few follow-up questions.  I wanted to know if he really did meet Amelia Earhart and I wanted to know if his degree in electrical engineering was essential for his research and development of building materials for Johns-Manville.

No, he doesn’t think he ever met Amelia Earhart.  He did touch the controls in her plane when it was on exhibit at Perdue.  He turned the knobs to watch the dials move and was reprimanded by a guard.  The connection between electrical engineering and building material research and development left me sinking into the abyss of frustration.  I opted to redirect the conversation with a variation on last week’s brain stimulating game of tapping into the area of imagination.  At one point he had said that he would like a job that would allow him to travel with his family.

“If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go.”

“Indiana, I guess.  Back home to Indiana.  It would be nostalgic.  I’m familiar with Indiana.  And maybe the South Pacific.  That’s familiar to me, too ….. and Australia.  And I wouldn’t mind going back to Indiana and visiting some of my old, familiar places.  Maybe I could find some of the people I used to know.”

“Anyplace else?”

“I think I would like to go back to Indiana.  I know Indiana.”

“Are there places you haven’t been that you would like to visit?”

“Hmmmmmm.  I’d probably like to go back to Indiana.….. Oh, places I haven’t been?  Maybe China.”

“Any other places?”

“Hmmmmmmmmm…….hmmmmmmmmmm……..hmmmmmmmmm…..hmmmmmmmmmmm.  What was the question?”

I repeated the question.

“Places I haven’t been?  hmmmmmmm …. I’ve always enjoyed action.  Maybe a place where business is prospering, maybe parts of Europe and places I don’t know about…… and China ……  and I think Indiana.  What was the question again?”

I could cut and past the above conversation half a dozen times more.  I tried to move it along.

“What are my options, Chris?”

“We’re playing a game, Dad.  You have ten seconds to tell me to buy a ticket to anyplace in the world.  If you don’t pick a destination, you will sit on this bench for the rest of your life.  Those are your two options.”

“What was the question?”

I repeated, several times.

“Indiana, I guess.  It’s familiar.”

At some point, Dad clicked into another part of his brain.

“China.  Maybe the Himalayas.  And maybe, if I didn’t have to stay there too long, the Sahara Desert.  If I could stay a little longer, I’d pick a place where I could meet and chat with the people.”

“Where would that be, Dad?”

“China.  Maybe South America…. or China.  I have curiosity …. not to live, but to visit Africa.  I’m interested in how the people live and how I could improve their way of living.  I used to do that.  I sold Real Estate to help people better their lives.”

“You didn’t sell Real Estate for very long, Dad.  If you liked helping people that way, why did you stop selling Real Estate?”

“I don’t know.  What did I do after that?”

Dad definitely seemed stuck in Indiana.  I gave him a hint.

“I was born in Indiana, Dad, but I didn’t grow up there.”

“Hmmmmmmmm.  I went to work for Johns-Manville, didn’t I?”

The conversation turned to Dad’s transition between selling Real Estate and his job at Johns-Manville.  I was exhausted and pulled out the sketchbooks.

“Time to write, Dad.”

First poem of the day

It Is What It Is

The silence is deafening

In these woods —

Ah, now there’s a plane overhead

And the pattering of footsteps

As joggers

Go jogging by.

Chris contributes to the silence as she sketches away, —

While sitting at the picnic table, —

Across from me this warm summer day.

I pop another grape in my mouth, —

And sip a sip of Poland Spring water

Hoping more exciting words

Will come for me to write down, soon.

It might be a quite long wait

For words that somehow make some sense

Until then it seems a bit wasteful

To sit here pushing pencil on paper

It is what it is

Dad … a day in the woods with Chris

Dad’s illustrated poem

I asked Dad to draw a few cherries (we didn’t have any grapes) on the page with his poem.  That led into more drawing.

Cherries and Words

We played with writing words along the cherry stems in our drawings.

bending words along cherry stems

The expression on Dad’s face changed as he wrote the words along the cherry stem.  I presented another graphic word game to him.

Dad’s second attempt at word game

Dad’s third attempt at word game

I think he would have been happy to be stuck on the bench for the rest of his life playing this game.  Maybe he would choose that next time instead of sending me to buy a ticket to Indiana or China.

Waiting for my return

We packed up our picnic and continued our walk, stopping first at the restrooms.  The yellow, thermal bag, filled with pottery bowls, ice packs and bottles was too heavy for me to carry through the woods.  I left Dad on a bench while I brought the bag back up the steep hill to the car.  I left him with pencil in hand and green sketchbook open on his lap, hoping I would see words on the page when I returned.  Even more importantly, I hoped I would see Dad still sitting on the bench when I returned.

The wooded area speaks history

Of trees reaching high

Search for Sun’s rays

Coming down from the sky

The green grass below

Carpets the ground

And prevents rains from the skies

Leaving big ditches all ’round

I can’t help but believe that drawing helps Dad to put words together poetically.  There is a dramatic difference between this poem and his first poem.

Lost somewhere between tree tops and sky

The afternoon light distracted me and I snapped dozens of photos of a pipe while Dad drifted into the tree tops.

Beautiful pipe

It was getting late.  After a very short walk through the woods, we trudged up the hill to the car.  Dad needed to stop only once to rest.

Dad with pencil in hand

Next week I’ll tuck a few sheets of graph paper into Dad’s sketchbook.  We’ll play the word game again.

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This post is written mostly for my siblings.  It may become tedious for others, and perhaps for my siblings, too.  After this conversation with my father last Thursday, sitting on a bench gazing out over Dealaman Pond, I hope to live my life a little differently, a little truer to myself.  Perhaps this post is more about me than it is about my father.

Dad gazing out over Dealaman Pond

I wanted to try tapping into a different part of Dad’s brain.  Rather than dig into the past, I wanted to see where his imagination might take him.

“What do you think the world will be like in another ten years?”

“I’d like to think it will be better.  It will be good.  I think we’ve learned how to get along better with one another …. without wars.”

“What about the wars that are going on right now?”

Dad looked at me, surprised. “I guess I’m really out of touch.”

We talked for quite a while about human nature, going all the way back to neanderthals.  We talked about advances in technology, sanitation and health.  We talked about the unchanging challenges of communicating with loved ones, referring back to our earlier conversation about listening and talking.  Dad, as always, is an optimist.

“We certainly have more choices now than we did before.”

“Some people do …. some people don’t.  I’m thinking about the whole world.”

A look of confusion crossed Dad’s face.  I tried another path toward his imagination.

If  there is such a thing as reincarnation, of being born back on the earth again, what would you choose to be?

“Do you mean would I want to be a dog?”

“You can choose to be any plant or animal, including a human.”

“I would, of course, be human again.”

“Man or woman?”

” …. man, I guess.”

“What nationality?”

“American”

“What religion would you be.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Pretend we are filling out a form and you have to fill in all the blanks.”

“I would want a choice.”

“I’m giving you a choice.”

“I would want to choose then, not now.”

“What’s the difference between choosing now and choosing then?”

“I want the freedom to choose and the freedom to change my mind.”

“Okay.  Let’s say that you have to choose the religion of the parents you are born to.  You will be able to change your religion at any point in your life, but you have to choose the religion of your parents.”

“Well, I know about Christianity.  I guess I might want to choose something different.”

“And what might that be?”

“Oh, any one would be okay.”

“Dad, I’m giving you a choice.  We are filling out your order form and we have to put something in the box labeled “Religion”.”

Grumble, grumble, grumble….. “Okay, I guess Hindu.”

“Great.  Okay….. what race would you want to be?”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter.  Any one is okay.”

“Dad, just like the religion.  You have to choose.”

“It really doesn’t matter.  They are all fine with me.”

“Dad, you won’t be able to change your race the way you can change your religion.  Again, you have to choose what race your parents will be.  Maybe they will be the same, maybe they will be different.  Right now, you are choosing your future parents and you have to decide.”

Long pause ………..

“Well, if I am honest, I will say White. ………………….. but really, it doesn’t matter, any of the others will be okay…………”

Dad smiled.  “Now, that was a good answer, don’t you think?”  He looked quite proud of himself.  To me, his added comment felt like an attempt to make his real choice a bit more politically correct.  I gave Dad a bit of a hard time about thinking his answer was such an acceptable one.

“The important thing is to be alive and healthy.”

I thought I grew up in a household without prejudice.  In many respects, I still feel that’s true.  I also feel that it’s impossible to grow up without the influence of prejudice in one form or another.

The last question was the most difficult.  The struggle for the answer was illuminating in that it cast a brighter light on the choices and absence of choices I have made in my own life.

“What would your occupation be?”

“I would want a choice.”

“I’m giving you a choice.”

“I would want to choose it then, not now.”

“What would you base it on then, that you can’t base it on now?”

“I would want to see what I know how to do.  I made choices in my life based on my background.  I was a builder.  I built my own house.  I think I would want to build my house again.”

“You could build your house again, Dad.  But what would you want to do for a living?  To support yourself and your family if you had one?”

“I would want a choice.  If I couldn’t make a choice, I would be looking for a way to change things so that I could make a choice.  I would probably follow the same route I took in this life because I had the freedom to choose.”

“If you based your choice on things you like to do, what might you choose?”

“A builder.  I like to see I’ve done something.  I like to be creative, productive ….. not destructive.  Maybe something that would help improve the world.”

“Would you want to build buildings? bridges? roads?  houses?  Would you want to be an architect? a mason? a carpenter?”

“I would want a choice.”

“I’m giving you that choice, now.  Imagine that you had to sign up for a specific training, now.  The training for a carpenter is quite different from that of a mason.  To be a builder is not specific enough.”

“I would want to be something that would allow me to continue to learn and to grow.”

“Okay.  You want to be creative, productive, improve the world, continue to learn and grow.  Most occupations provide the opportunity for all of those things.  You could be a musician, artist, dancer, chemist, botanist, engineer …….. When Mike was little he would say “I want to be an astronaut when I grow up.”  I’m asking you not what you want to be when you grow up, but what you want to be the next time around.”

“It would depend on the situation.  I would want to be able to choose.”

“What would it depend on?”

“It would depend on what was available and what was needed.”

By now, my frustration level was getting close to explosive.

“Dad.  You keep saying you want choices, you want the freedom to choose.  Every week when I visit, I give you choices throughout the day and you resist making any decision at all.  I give you a choice of food to eat.  You ask me what I’m eating.  I ask you which path you want to take and you say “whichever way you want to go”.  I ask you what game you want to play and you want me to decide.  You say you want choices, yet you never choose.  What good is being given a choice if you don’t choose.  What good is the freedom to walk safely at night beneath the moon, if you don’t take advantage of that freedom?  I’m giving you a choice of what you will be in your next lifetime and you refuse to make that choice.”

“How can I make that choice if I don’t know what jobs will be available? How can I tell if I’ll be successful?”

“Dad, we are playing a game.  It is a dreaming game … anything we want can come true game.  Next time around, I want thick, curly red hair and an incredible voice to belt out the Blues.  Maybe next time around people will all be deaf, but I still want to sing!  Dad, in this game, I will guarantee that you will be excellent at what you do, top in your field.  You will love what you do and be financially successful, you will be healthy, you will be happy, you will do wonderful things for the world and the world will need you to do exactly what it is you love doing.  Dad….. what do you want to be the next time around.

Without any hesitation at all, Dad replied, perhaps a touch of regret in his voice “an aviator …. a pilot”

I have known his answer for as long as I can remember, yet somewhere along the path of life, the passion was buried, long before the dementia took hold.  I am left wondering when the pursuit of choices replaced making choices.  I think it happened early in my childhood.

Sitting on the bench at Dealaman Pond

Looking back, I have often made choices to have more choices rather than making a choice and acting upon it to completion.  I have put off choosing, always working up to a choice, but avoiding it by taking a path that led to more choices that I could eventually avoid.  Thanks, Dad, for waking me up.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dad was in a deep sleep when I arrived.  He stumbled as he wandered over to his card table and began asking me what the different papers were on the table.  He opened his cell phone to check the date and time.  The cell phone was dead.  No wonder it transferred to the phone message when I called him to tell him I was on my way.  He looked to his calendar as if to locate himself.

“Ah…. it says it’s Grand Daddy’s Birthday!  He was born in 1898.  Is it June 7th today, Chris?”

We had a few minutes before we left to drive to Dr. Frisoli’s for Dad’s vitamin B12 shot. I handed Dad his green notebook and a mechanical pencil.

Extrusion

Words squeezed out

Of a sleepy brain

Trying to make sense

Seems in vain.

During the ten minute drive to the doctor’s we played the Dust Off the Cobweb Game again.  This time he remembered whom I was married to, how many children I have, as well as their sex and names!  When we arrived at the doctor’s, we had to wait again.  Out came the pencil and the book.

Illustrated Birthday Poem

Grand Daddy’s birthday

Is today

Born June 7th

1898

How LUCKY we are

To have been born

How great a world!

How great a day!

6/7/12

From Dr. Frisoli’s we went to Benny’s for an early lunch.  I wanted to let them know the house sold.  Again, we found ourselves seated and waiting.  This time we were waiting for our delicious lunch to arrive.  Dad asked his favorite question (for the fourth time already that morning).

“So how’s the family?”

I told him again that Alexis and Nicole would be coming to see him next week and I repeated what each of the kids are currently doing.  When I mentioned that Mike is paragliding, Dad smiled.

“I always had a love for flying….. I always loved flying!”

Out came the book and the pencil.

Trying to remember what he was going to write about.

Flying

Flying was a dream of mine

As I watched the birds in flight

that may be one reason why

I joined the Air Force, to fly on high

It was a good choice

It took me to Yale

I received gold bars

To The Pacific took sail.

He put down his pencil and stared intently at the glass display case.

Cookies for Sale

“Why, that’s pretty darn close to thirteen dollars if you ask me.”

Helen arrived, looking gorgeous in turquoise blue.  She and Benny already knew about the house.  They had seen Jane and Dad just a few days before.  Helen shared the good news of her daughter’s recent employment as a writer.

Helen and Dad

During lunch we played a new memory game, Name the Livestock.

BOVINES:

Guernsey – White faced, brown bodies

Jersey – Brown – almost solid brown, white nose, feet and tail

Angus – Black

Hereford – white face, brown (the description was later changed to “a young female cow of any kind.”

A pause …… “Are we talking about cows?”

“Yes, Dad, you are naming the different kinds of cows.  What about the black and white cows? Not the ones with the band around the middle, but the spotty ones.  Do you remember their name?”

“I can’t come up with it.  Pigs …. New Hampshire …. Black and White.”

Clue – “H”

Another clue – “HO….”

“Holstein”

“Are they black and white, Dad?”

“I’ll have to think about it.” ………….”What am I fishing for?”

We moved on to pigs.

PIGS:

Duroc – Red pigs

New Hampshire – Black with white band and tail

“That’s all I remember.”

“What are the white pigs called?”

“Maybe Berkshire.”

“What are the black and white spotted ones?”

“Poland China. I had a Poland China, a gilt (young female).”

“What kind of pig was the one that died because you forgot to water it?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Do pigs cross mate?”

“I don’t recall that they did.  The farmers probably made sure they didn’t.”

“I’d like to see a red one with a white band.”

“I don’t think the farmers would go for that.”

“Artists would.”

“Artists ….. and the pigs probably would.”  Dad smiled.

SHEEP:

“What about sheep?”

I don’t know if I can remember.  I don’t believe I can come up with that. Hmmmmm. Nope.  Don’t remember.”

We didn’t move on to POULTRY.  Instead, we drove to Lord Stirling Park.  We passed a gas station on the way up the hill. Dad chuckled again, seeing a sign for Premium gas at $3.99 per gallon.

“That’s pretty darn close to $4.00.”

I parked the car and we headed directly for Boondocks Boardwalk at the far end of the park.  Dad was feeling wide awake now and confident that he had the stamina for a long walk.

Honeysuckle was in full bloom along the path.

Dad picking the honeysuckle blossom

Extracting the nectar

Tasting the Honeysuckle

Dad had never tasted honeysuckle.  I taught him how to extract the nectar from the blossom.  Sadly, he couldn’t taste the sweetness.  Just as his sniffer isn’t working so well anymore, neither are his taste buds.

Further along, white wings filled the air, flitting from blossom to blossom.

Butterfly or Moth?

I still hadn’t taken the time to research whether this white-winged insect that we saw each week was a butterfly or a moth.  Dad insisted it was a moth because it didn’t have any colors.  Today, his opinion remained the same.

A diversion from journaling the day’s walk ……

During this past weekend’s Keyport Garden Walk Plein Air Event one of these winged creatures landed on a bush beside me.  I asked my friend if he thought it was a butterfly or a moth.  He, like my Dad, grew up on a farm.  “I’d call it a moth,” he said.  “Why?” I asked.  “It doesn’t have any color,” he answered.

I finally took the time to find a more definite answer.  Both butterflies and moths are classified in the order of Lepidoptera.  Butterflies and moths differ from one another in five basic ways:

1. Antenna – (Butterflies – rounded clubs on the end) (Moths – thin, often feathery)

2. Body – (B – thin and smooth) (M – thick and fuzzy)

3. Active – (B – usually during the day) (M – usually during the night)

4. Pupal Stage – (B- chrysalis) (M- cocoon)

5. Wings – (B – held vertically when resting) (M – flat against body when resting)

Only two of the above can be attributed, definitely, to the insect in question.  We definitely observe the activity during the day and the wings are definitely held vertically during the very brief moments of rest.  I believe the butterflies we see on our walks are in the family, Pieridae.  Pierids are rather conspicuous white, yellow, or orange butterflies, with around 1000 species worldwide.

I’ll never convince Dad that it is a butterfly.

Halfway to our destination I noticed an odd expression on his face.

“Are you doing okay, Dad?”

“I could use a rest stop.”

Bench

“Perfect timing, Dad.”  I pointed to the bench about four feet ahead of us.

“Not that kind of rest stop, Chris.”

We turned around and headed back toward the Visitor’s Headquarters, but we had walked too far.  Nature demanded immediate attention.  Dad tromped off into the woods.  He returned with a smile on his face.  He was determined to resume our hike to Boondocks Boardwalk.  We turned around again and headed, once more, for the far end of the park.

Picking up the pace

Dad was walking surprisingly well.  His balance was good, his gait strong and posture straight and tall.  As we walked, we shared with one another our first experiences with shitting in the woods.  I remember learning my own personal technique from my mother.  I passed the technique on to my campers when I found myself a camp counselor at Camp Speers / Eljabar, in charge of twelve girls rafting or canoeing down the Delaware River for five days straight.

Black Snake basking in the sun

We were not the only ones enjoying the heat of the day.

Left behind

It’s not unusual for us to discover abandoned equipment among the trees.

“Looks like it was used for hauling logs.  Looks like something heavy was on it.”

It seemed to me that a car would be just as heavy as logs on the frame.  I asked Dad why he thought it hauled logs instead of being the frame for a car.

“It has springs on it.”

Taking a break

A Walk In The Woods

With Chris and bugs

Sweat dripping down

Off of the chin

She’s taking pictures

And writing a bit

I’m writing too

While on a bench I sit

The day has no sound

It’s as quiet as can be

Blue sky and green leaves

Is all that I see

No it isn’t,

There’s nature all ’round

Including mosquitoes

Interrupting me now

.. Dad ..

Silence of the birds

“Don’t you hear the birds, Dad?”

“No, I don’t.  I have ringing in my ears.  Maybe it’s the same frequency and I can’t tell the difference.  No …. I don’t hear birds at all. Do you hear birds?”

“Yes, Dad, they are louder than that plane….. Do you hear the plane?”

“Yes, I do hear the plane.  But I don’t hear birds.”

Boardwalk to Nowhere

We reached the beginning of Boondocks Boardwalk!

A bloom between the boardwalk boards

The swamp plants are varied and spectacular.

Swamp Plants

I can’t resist snapping photos of the variety of shapes.

Dad’s shadow shape

“Don’t you want the shape of my shadow in your photo?”

“Sure, Dad.”

Around the next curve, the boardwalk was blocked by golf carts filled with tools.  Beyond the carts were several men rebuilding a section of the boardwalk.  Ever so carefully we navigated our way around the carts.

Boardwalk Repairs

The men were a bit startled by our arrival and our desire to continue our walk.

“Do you think we can make the step across?” I asked.

They looked even more startled.

“How about if we lay a plank across,” they offered as they warmed up to our adventure.

“Excellent!”

Laying the plank

“So …. you’re going to make your Dad walk the plank?  What kind of way is that for you to treat your Dad?”

Now everyone was totally into the adventure.

“How about two planks?”

“Sure, that’s even better.”

Laying the second plank

As they lay the second plank they warned me about the topsy-turvy nature of the boardwalk up ahead.

“Thanks.  We’ve walked it before.  I hold my Dad’s hand while we’re on the roller coaster section.”

“You wouldn’t mind then, sir, if we hold your hand while you walk the planks?”

“No….. not at all.”

Walking the Planks

A good time was had by all.  Dad and I continued along our way.

Tipped pilings

Gentle tips and turvies

Check the earlier Boondocks Boardwalk post to see photos of the extreme slants of the boardwalk as it winds its way through the far end of the swamp.

Dad’s energy level was starting to drop.  We stopped for another rest at what is called The Dance Floor.

Writing the last poem of the day

I see that I’ve written

about mosquitoes and sweat

well, both are still here

A’plenty, you bet!

We left the boardwalk behind and started back toward the car.  The path was level and without obstructions.  No need to hold Dad’s hand.  We paused every now and then to drink more water.  Dad’s fatigue was beginning to show by the shuffle of his feet.  His posture was a bit more stooped, but his balance was still quite good ….. or so I thought.

For no apparent reason Dad lost his balance.  In an effort to catch himself, he grabbed my arm with both of his hands and jerked me to the ground, much to the displeasure of my titanium hip.  We both lay still for a moment, neither one of us able to get up.  Slowly, I managed to stand.  My hip hurt, but I was pretty certain it was okay.  I think the muscles were wrenched in an unusual way and they were letting me know.  Dad still lay on the ground.

“What just happened?  Why did I fall?  Did I trip on something?  Why can’t I get up?”

“Relax, Dad.  Just give me a minute.”

I tried to help him up, but he wasn’t doing anything on his own.  He grabbed onto me and pulled.

“Dad, let go!  You’re going to pull me down again!”

He let go.

“Okay….. let’s do this carefully.  You’re going to have to stand up on your own, Dad.  I can help balance you, but I can’t hold all of your weight.”

It took at least five minutes for him to make the necessary maneuvers.

“Why can’t I do this?  I can’t believe that I fell.  I can’t believe it is so difficult for me to get up…………”

When he was finally standing.  We waited another few minutes before moving on.

“Dad, we are going to hold hands and we are going to walk very, very slowly.”

I didn’t dare let go of him even to get a walking stick for him to use.  Had I thought about it, I would have grabbed a stick before he stood up.

We made it to the parking lot and almost to the car.  He started to lose his balance again and grabbed my arm with his free hand.  Fortunately, there was a parked car in front of mine.  We fell against the parked car instead of landing on the sharp gravel.

Once again, I brought my Dad back to Chelsea covered in blood.  He had scraped his arm badly when he fell in the woods.  Vicki cleaned him up nicely and scheduled an evaluation for him.  Hopefully, he will begin to get physical therapy to maintain and build strength that he has lost by spending most of his time sleeping in his chair instead of taking his seven mile daily hikes and maintaining a one acre yard and a crumbling house.

Walking sticks will be our constant companions from now on!

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