DAD UPDATE: (not a dire pronouncement, you can relax, good news)
Dad turns 91 today. And he’s still with us.
The man who we thought might not make it to Christmas has instead made it all the way to the middle of February.
He’s had a little rebound in energy and appetite. He remains comfortable and well cared for.
There’s a new, smaller, more focused activity group to engage some of his daytime hours. Something where everyone is more on his conversational level, which is still remarkably keen and alert for a guy with some memory issues.
My stepmother’s email earlier this week summed it up: “I am realistic, but, nevertheless, pleased!”
She gets his daily company when she comes to help feed him his dinner. She reminds him about his day just past, and the day just ahead of him. She reminds him when she’s going to see him again. She reads to him. Often she’ll read a little note that they receive in the mail from me.
I’ve been writing him every day. I got a set of multicolored little stationery cards originally to write little notes to my goddaughter. The past several months, I’ve been writing both to her, and to Dad, every day. Not much, just a little something. I fill both sides of the card with details from my days. What I’m working on, what I’ve seen, what’s been on my mind, what I’m reading, some random item from my general environment, painting a picture of what my day to day life is like here in Minnesota. It’s become a ritual. My stepmother gave me some feedback that recent notes detailing the ins and outs of how I’m rewriting a play have been a big hit with Dad, sort of pulling back the curtain on my theater work. I was a little afraid that might be boring but it seems to be the opposite, so we’ll reference that as it arises. Extra incentive to keep on those rewrites, which doesn’t hurt.
She’ll call, later today when I’m at work and she’s arrived for his dinner, and we’ll all speak, briefly - Dad can’t engage for long on the phone, but he likes it as long as it lasts, and it’s good to hear his voice.
All of which makes me wonder, how much longer have we got?
I try not to be morbid and borrow trouble, stay in the moment, just enjoy what we have.
But honestly, I worried I was jinxing things when I dropped his birthday card in the mail last week (because I know it takes a week for any mail to reach them and I wanted the card to get there on time).
Because I go through so many notes in a week, I try to sit down and address and return address a handful of the envelopes ahead of time, so I’m not wasting potential note writing time with the basics I could do with less focused brain power. But every time I’m sitting and writing out Dad’s name and address, I feel like I’m tempting fate, expecting I’m going to have cause to use all of them. That I’m going to get that many more days.
And there’ll come a day when I get a phone call. And that’s going to be it.
And all the notes I’ve written in the previous days, that take a week to reach their destination, will be things he never hears her read to him at dinner time.
I’m working with a friend who runs a theater in Connecticut on a short piece for their 2019 Christmas show. And the thought keeps creeping into my head, what the heck is Christmas going to look like this year?
Because Christmas and his birthday are still two very significant days for Dad, even as he forgets a lot of everything else. He hung on for Christmas. He’s hung on for his birthday.
Now what’s he going to hang on for?
The days with her, I guess. His valentine.
We don’t trouble him with the bad news these days. We don’t want him to worry. About us, about anything. He got us all started, it’s up to us now. We just want to reinforce how much we appreciate whatever time we get with him, and everything he’s done. But it’s OK now, he can rest. (We don’t want you to go, but it’s OK.)
We all made the big 90th birthday celebration a year ago, when things seemed much less precarious.
I’m sorry I can’t be there today for 91. The finances, such as they are, quite literally won’t allow it. We used up the emergency funds right after Thanksgiving.
So we communicate from afar. And we wait.
But today’s a good day. Dad make another complete orbit around the sun.
And that will make him happy.
I’m going to write him a little note.