Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Random Notes From April '09--and a birthday!

1. Liv shocked us all on the 20th by turning yet another year older. The great number eight was celebrated with a day at Kate's Skating rink. She had a great time with friends and family and has developed a hilarious speed-skating "hunch" when she zips around the rink. Impressive.

2. My dad is still adjusting to his new digs and after a stretch of peaceful days last week he started another roller coaster ride two days ago of bad moods and general ill temper. I'm trying not to go there with him, but it's hard.

3. One of the great things about last week was that my dad actually joined in one of the group activities(OK, he was kind of dragged by his private aide) , watching a guy who plays and sings oldies on piano. I got a text message from the aide that read "HE LIKES IT! HE HAS SMILE ON HIS FACE!"

4. The current state of Olivia: Loves Hannah Montana (or is it Miley that she loves? Can't tell), wearing dresses whenever she can, digging in the school garden, playing with Anna Marie and looking up her friends' numbers in the school directory so she can call them. She's still a little beanpole no matter how much or what she eats. I'm curious to see if that'll last through puberty! But, I can't complain--her snacks of choice lately are skim string cheese with either strawberries or grape tomatoes.

5. The current state of Nate: Still firefighter obsessed. But, since Mark and I have been watching DVD's of old "Rescue Me" episodes, I'm not so keen on the idea of my baby one day knocking down doors and getting a face full of flames. We'll see- - maybe signing him up for one of the hugely expensive science camps this summer will sway his desires. He also loves digging in his classroom garden, playing with best buds Jake and Rowan, and reading his beloved Bob Books. Oh, and playing T-ball on his league. In fact, there's a game tonight---go Knights!

6. General state of Casa de Pellin: We're OK, gearing up for the end of the school year and summer activity. Trying to decide if we have enough cash and time for a vacation this year. We're jonesing for a mini-getaway, maybe Carowinds or a weekend camping trip. Time and finances will tell.

7. What's on the nightstand: Just finished "Sleeping Arrangements" by Laura Shaine Cunningham. Moving, hilarious memoir, albeit a little too honest at times (what sometimes happened to little kids in the streets of 1950's NYC is so disturbing). The author shares the tragedies she suffered prior to age 6 that landed her in the apartment of her two sweet, intellectual bachelor uncles. These guys had no idea how to raise a little girl, but they doted on her shamelessly, often making popcorn for breakfast at her bidding. I was sad to see this one end; it was a nice escape at the end of a tough day. Next up is an offering from my cousin in Ga- - getting a passed-along book in the mail is one of life's great pleasures, I tell you. Can't wait to dig into it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What is, is.

Lately I've been thinking a LOT about things I would change, if given the power. That pesky, olive-drab carpet that came with my circa 1971 house? Poof!
Gone, replaced with lovely hardwoods. Cost? Zippo. The giant, overgrown crime-against-nature "natural area" in our backyard? Poof! Instantly, it's a lovely, weed-free garden, bursting with FREE organic tomatoes, blueberries and Dove dark chocolate bars (it's MY fantasy, OK?)
But the biggest, most important thing I would make disappear is the cruel, ugly, heartless disease that keeps stealing bits and pieces of the one thing that really, really mattered to my father. His mind. More specifically, his memory.

I can barely bring myself to use the A-word---this thing is too hideous to have such an innocent name. It doesn't deserve one. One name doesn't remotely encompass how cruel this thing is. It steals from people who deserve everything---people like my dad, who are generous, dry-witted, hard-working and capable. It doesn't care who it hurts. And so it hurts everyone. The grandchildren who don't understand, the grown children who ache for their lost parent, the friends who miss their old pal, even when he's sitting right next to them.

It's taken me months and months to realize that, unlike the carpet or the state of my lawn, this thing that's stealing my dad from me is beyond my reach. I can't totally defeat it, even though the medication that he takes can soothe the edges a bit. I needed help, and so did the extended family members who'd been caring for him back home.

My dad recently moved into an assisted living facility about two miles from my house. The experience has not exactly been smooth, but I dare say it's getting a bit less rocky. We have a private aide who comes in each day to help him get acclimated. J does everything from kindly coaxing my dad to take a shower and shave in the mornings to driving him out for ice cream in the afternoons. The other day I asked if he minded bringing my dad to meet me for lunch at a favorite seafood place.
He obliged, and even though all through the meal my dad kept calling J by the wrong name (he seems to think he's an old co-worker buddy of his) I was relieved to see he's finally treating him like a friend instead of an ever-present annoyance.

About an hour later, as I was driving back to work, I found myself wiping away tears. Again. Not an uncommon occurance for me these days, but this time something was different. I felt weird. What was it? Then it hit me. They were tears of joy. All I'd prayed for in recent weeks, if God couldn't take away this illness, was for Him to grant my dad some precious moments of peace and contentment. For so long, I'd felt my prayers had gone unanswered. But for a few splendid moments, as my dad ate his hushpuppies and smiled at me while I told him about Nate's baseball game, there it was. I recognized it. Peace.

He still has his bad days, and I'm sure there are many more to come, unfortunately. But now, I don't feel so alone anymore. And more importantly, neither does my dad.