Today I employ a new strategy with Dad. My brother and I rise early and chat a moment. Dad has slept most of the night but did get up in the middle and was awake for about an hour before he climbed back into bed. I whisper a prayer of gratitude that my brother has sacrificed his sleep while I enjoyed a full night of blissful dreams.
Despite the lost sleep, Dad is up and getting dressed by about 7:00 a.m. and ready for breakfast about 30 minutes later. The first thing he says to me as I greet him in the kitchen is, "I gotta go home and get my wife." I hug him and reassure him that we will go see her after breakfast and that she will come home tomorrow.
He's eager to see her and very happy to hear that. We eat the same breakfast we had yesterday and 20 minutes later head out to see Mom before she goes to PT today.
When we arrive, Mom is in the bathroom. We wait, Dad in the recliner and me in the straight back chair. In a few minutes Mom emerges from the bathroom with a smile on her face and a warm greeting for us both. She looks good.
Dad rises from his chair as quickly as he can. He pushes past me to get to Mom. He wants to help her get back to the bed. He kisses her and beckons to the bed. He could not be happier to see her. Once she is back in bed resting, Dad sits and relaxes, returning to his primary line of questioning in broken phrases. The meaning is clear. He wants to know when Mom will come home.
Mom holds his hand and pats his arm, assuring Dad that she will be coming home tomorrow. He asks in his own way why she cannot come home now. He is jovial about it and accepts that she must stay one more night. I can see the satisfaction on his face that the one person most familiar to him in this life will soon be coming back home.
I look away and then excuse myself to go find a restroom to give them a moment of privacy they have not really had for more than 10 days. We stay a little longer until the physical therapist arrives. We make our exit and I reassure Dad that we will return later today for another visit. He is reluctant to go but after a lingering moment, he follows me out to the truck.
We get home and like manna from heaven, Dad is able to sit in Mom's new chair and sleep for more than two hours. By noon he is rested and ready for a peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich. I add too much jam and Dad winds up with sticky fingers, a puzzle to solve after we finish eating. Eventually he ends up in the bathroom washing his hands but it takes a while for him to come to this solution. I have learned to make a soft suggestion but when it is rejected out of confusion, it is better to wait and let him work it out.
A little more resting from a full tummy and Dad is ready to go again. He puts on his old work hat and jacket, readying himself to go wander through the garage which doubles as his farm workshop. All his tools are there and while he no longer knows what to do with them, he seems to derive some comfort from looking at them.
This time I head him off at the pass with an even better offer. I tell Dad that if he will wait for a few minutes, I will be ready to take him back to town to visit Mom again. Who, he asks. Your wife, I tell him; my Mom. Oh, okay, he says, and takes a seat in the front room waiting patiently on the sofa. I finish with some email and a little more delay and then we go, but only after I ask if he would like to wear his nice hat and coat to go see his wife. He readily agrees and changes into his nice denim coat and gray felt cowboy hat.
We arrive and he greets Mom, happy again to see her and just as happy to learn again that she will be coming home tomorrow. We enjoy seeing an old family friend named Don. He is out walking and recuperating from an illness there. He is now 88 years old, hunched over deeply and dependent on oxygen, but he is happy to see us. Dad remembers him at least in that he knows this man is special to him and he greets him with a warm handshake and a smile in his eyes that mask any confusion in his memory about who exactly this man is. To Dad that part is not important. What he remembers is his love for this man. No other details are important.
Don leaves and we continue to visit with Mom. Eventually the same occupational therapist who was walking with Don returns to Mom's room, ready to take her to do her last OT session this week. Dad is again reluctant to leave. He tells the OT guy to take good care of her. He gives her a kiss goodbye. And I see much more deeply that same look of love and concern for Mom that he had minutes earlier extended to their old friend Don.
For the second time today we leave, but it takes longer and more encouragement from me to get Dad to walk out of Mom's room. He clearly does not really want to go. He definitely does not want to leave her there again. He is not belligerent about it, but he delays as best he can before eventually accepting that he must wait one more day.
The walk out to the truck feels longer and slower this time. I feel acutely in my soul the love that Dad has for Mom. It does not matter that his memory cannot tell him who she is all of the time. It does not matter that he does not know that she is both his wife and my mother. He is always pleased to be told these things. Dad's love for Mom transcends mortal memory. It is a true and eternal love.
Today was a great day!
Tomorrow will be even better.