I've been trying not to write every single post about my dad. I've been trying really hard. But the truth is that I think about him all the time. My dad is in the back (or front) on my mind all the time. Most days I am able to enjoy the boys, the weather, and our daily life. I am so lucky and I know I have a wonderful life. But there is this heartache tucked away.
This past Wednesday dad was finally taken out of the psych ward at the hospital and transferred to a nursing home. It all went smoothly and so far it looks like dad is coping well. There have not been any violent outbursts yet, so we are keeping our fingers crossed.
The day after he arrived at the nursing home I started decorating his room. It looked so bare compared to all the other residents and I wanted to spruce it up as soon as possible. Mom kept telling me that dad probably wouldn't notice and not to make too much fuss but I figured that if dad couldn't be at home at least he could be surrounded by pictures and blankets and music from home. Just as I was finishing up mom walked into the room took one look around and started crying. She wasn't expecting to see me there, and the room looked so much better she just couldn't hold her emotions in.
This has been so hard on her. She visits dad everyday for a few hours. She takes him outside and walks (pushes him in a wheelchair on his bad days) him around the grounds. Helps him eat his lunch and dinner. Plays music for him. And just keeps him company.
No matter how long I live in this life I don't know if I will ever see two people more bonded than my mom and dad. Dad lights up when mom walks in the room. He leans over and whispers to her, "I am so glad you're here. I love you so much. You are my whole life. You are so beautiful." They hug and hug and then cry. It is breathtaking and heartbreaking.
Even on the days when dad doesn't know who mom is he still loves her. He was walking down the hallway with a nurse when my mom came in through the doors. Dad turned to the nurse and said, "Oh, here she comes! She is so beautiful! I'm going to marry her someday!" My mom heard him say it and told him, "Oh Johnny, we're married already. We've been married for 49 years." Dad's face lit up and he responded, "Oh. That's good!" And then of course the sadness sets in and he says, "Oh honey, what has happened to us?" Then, more tears.
All of this, and so much more, has been swirling around in my head and it all showed itself on Saturday night. Todd and I went to his cousin's wedding and we had a great time. We talked and laughed with relatives. We had some drinks and of course we had some cake. I even got Todd out on the dance floor.
Then a song started to play. Remember When. The DJ asked all the married couples to get out on the dance floor and as they danced he began asking the couples to exit the dance floor based on how long they were married. The couple married the longest would be the last couple dancing. As I listened to the words of the song, and watched all of the couples married 40-50 years dancing, I couldn't help thinking about mom and dad. How they loved to dance together. How beautiful they looked. How enchanting they were to watch. And how they won't ever dance like that again. I couldn't hold back the tears. I headed off to the bathroom to recover only to come back to the father/daughter dance. I did well at first, and then really lost it. I hid my face in Todd's shoulder knowing I couldn't stop the floodgates. It all really hit me. I thought about my dad and I dancing together at my wedding. The greatest father/daughter dance ever. I thought about how much my dad would love to be at a wedding dancing and having fun. I thought about dad sleeping all alone in his room at the nursing home. I wondered if he was lonely. I wondered if he was scared. I wondered if his heart was breaking at that moment just as mine was. I wondered and wondered and wondered.
It is so difficult to stop these thoughts from bubbling to the surface. It doesn't do any good to dwell on it. And most of the time I am okay. I try not to think about it too much. I try to be positive. I'm trying. Because I really am lucky.
I am so lucky to have had my dad as long as I have. And I'm lucky he is still here. Because there are moments, however few, when I can still see his personality make an escape from his mind's prison. And he is daddy all over again. Briefly. But he is in there. And I can still hug him. I can still tell him I love him. And I know he hears me. His heart hears me even when his mind doesn't know me.