The day was off to a less than auspicious beginning. For starters, it was raining. And I don’t mean a light drizzle that makes all your flat-ironing efforts null and void, but rather, a deluge that has you checking your home owner’s insurance policy and maintains a persistence that has you keeping an eye peeled for a floating boat with pairs of animals. This was the setting for my weekly visit with my dad and my later journey to watch my niece compete in a country music vocal contest.
I hit the road at 2:45, plenty of time to make the trek to the nursing home, feed my dad his weekly chocolate, and pick up some food before I had to meet the family. Sure, it was sprinkling and had been for a couple of hours, but how long could it last? I barely made it to the interstate when the bottom dropped out and slowed traffic to a modest crawl. I turned the volume up to an unhealthy level so I could hear my Train CD over the water trying to turn the top of my car into a sunroof, and I watched the clock challenge the wisdom of my tight-knit schedule as a 45 minute journey turned into an hour of road rage fun.
I parked the car and navigated the puddles in the parking lot like a hopscotch game, mentally chiding myself for my choice of sandals. I entered the nursing home and checked my dad’s room, hoping to find him in bed for his afternoon siesta. No such luck. He was still in the Sunshine Room, which is an euphemism for the large area with a couple of staff members on watch for those renegades who would beat it out the door if left to their own devices. This room is decorated with an array of chairs lining the walls, a TV and bookcase filled with some books but more DVD’s, and two tables: one of these tables has blocks and magazines for those who can self-occupy, and the other is located next to the staff member on duty since these residents are the true rebels, those who are feisty and self-assured of their right to walk right out of there, constant need for medical care be darned. I walked in to find Dad at the lockdown table.
“Hey, Dad. Whatcha been doing?” The look on the nurse’s face more than answered the question.
His head swiveled in my direction. “Hey! How you been?” He was wearing the new shirt my sister had given him for his birthday, and his hair was still neatly combed considering the late hour.
“Guess what I brought you?” He looked eagerly at the box I produced and watched as I dumped three chocolate honeybuns on the table.
“Oh boy.” He snatched at one, and I helped him with the wrapper.
The lady across from him, Miss Patty, is a permanent resident of the Timeout Table, and she began to cry and stand to her feet, yelling incoherent sentences. The nurse helped her regain her seat, and I offered her one of the honeybuns to distract her from her constant sorrow. The move was risky given that Dad lost his capacity to share several years ago, but I weighed the two options in my mind and saw this as the greater opportunity for harmony. Soon the two rabble-rousers were happily munching their treats.
I talked to Dad of daily life and Callie’s upcoming singing competition, but he was unable to respond articulately because of his form of dementia. I couldn’t tell how much of our conversation he absorbed, but he was mostly content while I was there, and I consider those days a triumph. The days he yells at me, throws blocks at the nursing staff, or I walk out of there with 3 Musketeers in my hair, not so much. So I hugged him and promised to see him next week and then wished the nurse a good weekend right as he started to stand and weave back and forth. I picked up my pace and cleared the doorway before a good visit could turn sour.
© 2013 – Traci Carver