My wife's family is beginning the process of caring for her parents. Her father, nicknamed "Big Red", because of his heart, not his size, has Senile Dementia and her mother, Martha, has advanced Lyme disease and crippling arthritis. These two were known and loved for many things around their small town. Leadership, coaching football, swimming, mentoring, motherhood and fatherhood role models for their 6 children and most of the towns kids, too. Red could tap dance until he was 75. Martha was a great dancer with great legs until she was 80. Now, Big Red shuffles aimlessly and Martha can barely walk at all. This summer, they will return from New Orleans, where they live with their youngest son, and move back into their summer house, next to ours. We will eat all meals with them, give them their medicine, and lock them in at night. Then, we will watch out our window until the last light is out before we can go to bed. They think they are "living independently". They are failing weekly. Big Red, my father in law and my hero, is already gone mentally. We will have to make hard decisions reluctantly and soon. This is what I wrote about him today:
Where is My Father?
Where is my father?He is not here.He has left this worldand us, we fear.
He walks and talksand asks us wherehe lives and whyhe is not there.
He tries to leavehis own house and wifeTo find his motherwho left this life.
He says we are not hiswe beg him stayhe hides his medsand sneaks away.
We follow himas he wandersdown the roadto places yonder
He stops and staresas through town he roamsBut this is not his townso we bring him home.
"Who is that woman?"He asks in tears."It is your wifeof 50 years"
That is not hermine was youngerI must go find hernot stay here longer.
We calm him downand take him to his bedand watch in the darknessuntil he rests his head.
His wife crawls inand holds him fastHe weeps and hugs herand sleeps at last.
Tomorrow isanother daylike the last oneWe fear and pray.
We ask God's helpbut know not what to askto make him betteror make this his last...
Day on earthSo he can restand meet his makerand feel his best
Where are my fathers?Both in heaven above.Some day I'll join themReunited in love.
-- written by the son-in-law of a man with Senile Dementia whom he calls father.April 27, 2010
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