Tuesday, April 8, 2008

14,200 Days to Go

That drive.
During rush hour.
... Got a whole lot of praying done, that's fer danged sure.

I got to Delta View just as they were starting their dinner.
They all had their bibs on (pink and blue plaid flannel, full chest size) and were eating their soup course. My dad was seated with three men and he wasn't looking up ... his soup had his full attention. He was using a very unsteady hand to bring a half-filled teaspoon up to his mouth.

There wasn't an extra chair at the table so I knelt beside him.
"Hi Dad," I said as I placed my hand on his shoulder. "I just saw Hildegarde downstairs. Did you have a good visit?"
He looks up from his soup and smiles. Then he went right back to trying to get soup to his mouth.
"I'm going to put my stuff in your room, OK? I'll be right back."
He nodded.

A rolling chair had been placed at the table for me, so I sat beside him as he worked on that soup.
"Do you know where those pants are from? Because I have a hoodie that matches. And I'd sure like to have pants like that." Maurice, across the table from me, was referring to dad's black/grey/white camo pants. Even though dad wasn't wearing them today, he remembered seeing dad in them yesterday.
"I'll ask my sister," I assured him. "She bought them for him, so she can tell you tomorrow. She probably got them from a place in Langley."
"That's good! I live in Langley! My wife buys all my clothes from Sears. Arnold Palmer designs all my clothes. See, this button? And this button? All my buttons, on my shirts and sweaters and pants? All say Arnold Palmer on them."
"Well, you sure can be sure that your clothes match then, can't you?" I suggested.
"Is this sweater green?" he asked.
"It is."
"Does it match the rest of my clothes?"
"It sure does. You look great."
"I sure want a pair of those camo pants though."
"I'm not retarded, am I?" my dad interjects.
"Nope, you're not. You're reTIRED."
He nods and goes back to his soup.

The third fellow at the table is a grumpy man who isn't eating. He's scowling. And grunting. And making hand gestures at me that I just don't understand.
"Can I help you?" I ask him.
"dnfpwmfanwfwa" he responds.
"Pete is retired, just like me." Maurice is wanting to talk.
"Oh, when did you retire? I ask.
"Well, it was my 65th birthday in November, but at the university, everyone who is going to retire does so on the July 1 closest to their 65th birthday. SO I officially retire on July 1."
"Where will you be retiring from?"

Turns out he and his wife just moved to BC after living in Manitoba their entire married lives. He was a Professor of Engineering at the University of Manitoba and she was the head dietitian at a hospital. He's in a wheel chair, has huge glasses that sit on the end of his nose, and is quite hunched over.

The soup bowls are cleared away and trays with their main course are placed in front of them. It's a few slices of processed turkey breast and a colourful sweet potato stew.

Dad shudders when he looks at it.
He pokes a chunk of sweet potato and brings it up to his nose, screwing up his face when he smells it.
"Don't think you're going to like this?" I say. "Here I'll cut up the turkey, try this."
He puts a piece in his mouth and chews it slowly and carefully for about a year before swallowing.
He puts another piece in.
"Pete? Are you going to be a resident here? Or are you here for respite care?" Maurice asks.
Dad looks scared. He doesn't know what Maurice is asking.
"He's only here for two weeks," I answer. "How about you?"
Dad is still chewing on that second piece of turkey and seems to be having trouble getting it down.
"I'm here for respite. My wife? She has gone to Wales. You might be wondering why she is in Wales... it's to attend a Corgi dog show and convention. We are Corgi handlers and she is the Canadian National Secretary. So she is over there with a lady friend."

Dad has finally swallowed that second piece of meat-like substance and tries again with the sweet potato. He puts it in his mouth, and the texture and taste - unfamiliar to him - cause him to gag.

Uh huh. Full out gag.
I got the edges of his mega-bib up just in time to catch the milkshake, orange juice and soup that were in his stomach. But there was so much, and it kept coming, that is was leaking out the side.
"Uh? Help!" I asked, not too loudly because I didn't want to draw attention to our little situation.

He was still heaving as an attendant came with another bib, and together we caught the last of his stomach's contents. I helped dad back to his room, and the nurse changed him into a set of clean clothes.

"Do you want to stay in your room for awhile? Maybe lie down?" I asked, worried that he had that bloddy Norwalk virus.
The nurse said, "He wants to go back to eat."

So, we walk him back to his chair and I'm all mortified to sit down with these two men who just watched my old man empty his gut right at the table while they were trying to eat.
"I'm not retarded. Right?" He asks again.
"No, you're not. You're retired. What would you like to eat? Let's not have anymore of this, OK?"

Just then, Didi, the runner, ran over to us and put her nose 6 inches from mine. She sniffed, then ran away. She runs and runs and runs. Like a toddler who never gets tired. She doesn't talk. Just runs in circles, only stopping to look very closely at something or someone new. She kinda freaks dad out, so when he's in his room, he locks his door.

A piece of cake and an egg salad sandwich is brought to him, and he continues to eat.
"So, Pete, what have you retired from? How did you make a living?" Maurice, clearly not put off by the vomiting, is ready to resume a conversation with my mostly silent dad.
Dad looks at me, alarmed.
"My dad has built some beautiful houses." I say.
"I built a house too, a vacation home, at Lake of the Woods in Ontario."
"What else did you do everyday, dad? What kind of work did you do?"
He looks up from his cake. "Arborite. I was an Arborite man."
"You sure where."
"I'm not retarted."
"No, you are not."
"Can you get me a bottle of Baby Duck?"

Maurice and I continue talking about his move from Manitoba to BC, his wife and the fact that they have no children or family. Around me in the room, I'm noticing the other residents. and their level of deterioration. Three women are in fully reclined lazyboys on wheels, and getting spoon fed. There is no head movement. No eye movement. Just bodies with open mouths.

At another table, there is a group of women talking nonsense. Random babbling. Cackling. Constant calling of attendants for attention.

"I'm not retarded, am I?"
I reassure him, over and over, that he is not retarded.

He has an appetite for foods not available to him (can I have an orange?), so I suggest we head over to the TV area and watch the news.

"No. I want Baby Duck."
"You wanting to get drunk, dad?"
He smiles.

I get him settled in the wingback chair in his room, put on his favorite movie, and sit on the window seat beside him. In minutes, he's fast asleep, drooling.
I give him a nudge. "Hey dad, you're drooling."
He pulls out his hanky and wipes his chin, "I'm not retarded."

I left him an hour later; I wanted to make sure he didn't have the Norwalk. There was no more puking, so I figured we were safe. It was just that sweet potato stew.

I spent the drive home talking to mom, then Julie.

I don't want to get old.

I just did this: the real age test.
It was a little bit comforting...
My actual age is 46 years
But my virtual age is 36.2 years (W00T!)

Average age for Canadian women: 75 years
My life expectancy, based on my lifestyle: 84.8 years- meaning I have about another 14,200 days to live, God willing.

Three things I'm thankful for:
1. Cell phones
2. Dad will only be in there for 2 weeks. Then he'll be home, where he won't be questioning his brain power.
3. New episode of The Office - this Thursday. Yay.


Prayer requests:
1. For my dad. God knows what he needs.
2. For my mom. Her surgery is at 10:30 tomorrow morning.
3. For us.

Thank you. Thanks. Many thanks.

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