Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I Wish I Could Forget

He sat on the edge of the bed staring at a page in the magazine without really seeing the picture.  The room was dark.  The only light came from a small lamp on the table next to the bed.  There were overhead lights we could have turned on but we just couldn't bear it.  The room was bad enough without the greenish glow of the fluorescence adding to the awful yellow paint on the cinder block walls. 

I squinted at the picture to see what he wasn't seeing.  "That is a beautiful cabin isn't it, Daddy?"  I said to him.

"Oh yeah!"  my father answered back still staring into nothing.

Mom gently fingered each of his shirts as she hung them in the wardrobe on the opposite end of the room.  She tried to keep busy, folding and sorting, as we waited for someone to come help us.  It had been over an hour.

We had already given ourselves a little tour.  We'd seen the "dining hall".  We walked by the common area fully stocked with worn arm chairs and couches, an old television, puzzles, games, newspapers, and magazines.  We passed a woman sitting in her wheelchair in the hallway sobbing over the baby doll in her arms.  Dad bent down to her and said, "What a beautiful baby you have!  You're doing just great!"   One after another the prisoners received comfort from dad until mom and I could no longer witness his kindness and we took him back to his room.

When mom finished putting his clothes away and tidying up the barren room it was time to go. I went into the hallway and flagged down a nurse. 

"Excuse me.  My mom and I have to go now.  Could someone please come and sit with my dad or show him around while we leave?"  I pleaded.

"Um.  It is a really busy time of night right now.  Put him in the common area and he can sit with the other residents until we can get to him."  she said quickly.

"Well, I don't know if that will work. He might start to follow us."  I said, still trying to be polite.

"The doors lock so he won't be able to follow you."  she answered without thinking.

"Listen, it's his first night here. Isn't there someone that can be with him while we are leaving?"  I prodded.

"I'll be there in a minute."  she spat at me as she turned and disappeared around the corner.

I walked back down the hall towards my dad's room.  My stomach tightened and rolled, either from the ammonia smell lurking in the walls or what was to come.  

"Let's go take a walk and watch tv, okay?"  I announced as I rounded the doorway into the room.  Mom nodded her head knowingly and grabbed her purse. 

My face began to flush.  I felt hot and light headed.  I turned around and headed back into the hallway before mom and dad could see the blush that had crept into my face.  I made my way down the hall to the common area, my heart smashing against my ribs with each step.  After a few yards I checked behind me to see if mom and dad were following.  They were coming out of the room, walking slowly, holding hands.

As we reached the common area the nurse rushed over.

"Hi John!" she shouted at dad.  "I'm gonna sit with you in a minute, but you can sit here with Marianne and she will chat with you until I get back, won't you Marianne?"

Marianne did not say a word, or even look at dad, she just continued to stare at the light coming from the tv.  Mom and I looked at each other with wide eyes as the nurse ran away leaving us to the dirty deed.

We eased dad into a recliner and gave him yet another magazine.

"Someone will be with you in just a few minutes, dad.  Then they'll show you around, okay?" I bent over and hugged my dad around his broad shoulders that now felt frail.  Sweat was forming on my upper lip.  My throat was too tight to speak properly.  "I love you, daddy.  See you tomorrow." I whispered.
I stepped back and watched as mom kissed dad on the cheek and said, "Bye, honey.  I'll see you in the morning.  Love you!"  His eyes looked up at her questioning.  Confused.  Worried.

I forced my body to turn and follow my feet down the hallway.  As we reached the elevator I turned to see dad once more.

Still sitting in the recliner dad had twisted around to watch us go.  I waved my hand to him and he waved back.  And though we were a good distance away I could see he had tears in his eyes.  His lips trembled and lost washed over his face.  Abandoned.

I put my head down and let the hair fall over the sides of my face as I stepped onto the elevator.  I closed my eyes, grabbed mom's hand, and held my breath for the ride down to the first floor.   

The challenge was to write about a memory you wish you could forget.  If you have been reading my blog for a while you are probably not surprised I chose to write about my dad going into the first nursing home (thank God the second nursing home was worlds better) towards the end of his very long battle with Alzheimer's.  Though part of me wishes I could forget that experience I don't really want to loose any of my memories no matter how painful.  Each experience we have in life helps us to grow, and learn, and makes us who we are. 
I'm afraid I went over the 600 word count, but I edited all I could.


Cyndy Bush said...

This makes my heart ache. This is why I have chosen my profession; I want to provide quality care for people like your father. It breaks my heart to hear stories like this. xoxo

Hilary said...

So touching and tender, Kat. Beautifully written. Hugs to you.

Mom24 said...

Oh Kat. So beautiful and awful all at the same time. I am so, so sorry for what your dad went through, and you. I'm sorry for the lack of compassion in the nursing home, it's hard to imagine, but I know it's out there. You did a really good job writing this.

kisatrtle said...

Feeling sad for you.

Robyn said...

That had to be so hard.

Jenna said...

this was heartwrenching, and yet Im so glad you shared it with your readers, to let us in to see this situation with your eyes, to feel it with your heart. *HUG*

Honest Convo Gal said...

What a powerful story. I'm glad you didn't cut it anymore. Anything less would have hurt the story. All the details were necessary for us to feel the awful choice you had to make to leave your dad. I could feel your hurt, your pain at your choice. Nice post.

Kelly said...

That had me in tears. It's a great eye opener into what families have to deal with in circumstances such as this.

Cheryl said...

My father spent the last few years of his life in a nursing home because of a stroke. I know how those places can be, and how hard it is to think about them there.

Thank you for sharing.

Unknown said...

I can't imagine Kat, I'm so sorry this is a memory of yours. You wrote it beautifully.

And let me just say, I want you to WRITE more like this, please!! You are really good at it.

Unknown said...

This is such a tough memory, but you told it well.

Rima said...

Oh, Kat, what a hard thing to go through! You are a wonderful daughter, as I'm sure your dad always knew. This was just beautiful.

Naqvee said...

This memory of yours indeed is heart aching no wonder editing the incident to short it for a word limit would have been like cutting a heart into pieces.

May God lessen your grief.

Naqvee ♥

TexWisGirl said...

oh my. so incredibly painful. and brave of you.

i came over from hilary's to say congrats on your POTW. and am leaving now with tears...

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry.

Bossy Betty said...

A well-deserved POTW. Heartbreaking, but beautifully written as well.

historygirl said...

i can understand a bit of your heartbreak...my father just put my grandfather in a nursing home because of his Alzheimer's. Thankfully, my grandpa's nursing home is a wonderful place where he feels comfortable, like it sounds like your Dad's 2nd home.

Beautiful writing about a difficult subject.

Suldog said...

Kat, this is a beautifully written piece. Every word was necessary, so what does it matter if it went over some arbitrary count?

You had me building up tears. My own Dad died relatively young (age 62), but your description of the common room, etc., jibed perfectly with my memories of the places he spent during his heart surgery, recovery, subsequent visits to the hospital just prior to his death, and so on. I hated being in those places, hated leaving him in those places, hated the very fact that he had to be in those places. I saw My Dad while reading about Your Dad, so it hit me hard.

Well done, in any case. Great writing.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Such a tender story. I've had the same moment with my dad. Rips your heart out and I don't think I ever got it back in the right place.

A very passionate post.

Lindsay said...

Oh the tears. My grandma is going into assisted living this week and I am avoiding visiting for this reason. I can't handle this kind of stuff - it tears me up whenever I think of it, but then I need to remember that I would LOVE it if my grandkids visited me in a home someday. Alzheimer's sucks.

Anonymous said...

I'm SO FRUSTRATED reading this, and knowing that there are many nursing homes like this and unkind staff like that mean nurse. It's hard enough for the patient and family, and don't they realize a little bit of compassion can go a long way? This was beautifuly written, Kat, and I could FEEL your emotion so clearly. HUGS, my friend.

Barb said...

A heart-breaking memory, but as I read between the lines, I feel the love and caring that your Dad also must have felt from you and your Mom. Wonderfully written, Kat - congrats on POTW.

Linda said...

Hi, I know what it's like to put a parent in a nursing home. It's not something one forgets. It was one of my worst days - ever.

lime said...

oh kat. this is heartbreaking. i haven't gone through it with my parents but had other family members with alzheimer's. you do capture the pain so acutely. hugs.

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson