Moving On

“He was my mentor,” she said to me as she gave me a hug. “If there’s anything — really anything — I can do, don’t hesitate to call.” She was a woman doctor, a little older than me, who had known my father for many, many years.

I couldn’t respond. My eyes well up with tears at the slightest provocation these days.

This past Sunday in church, I stood in the communion line behind an elderly couple, he supporting her down the aisle, waiting for her to dip her bread in the cup and get it into her mouth before he took his. I felt the tears.

Then it was my turn. “The body of Christ broken for you,” said the pastor as he extended a chunk of bread toward me. My friend held the cup. I think she said my name as I dipped the bread. I was too busy trying to blink back tears to really hear.

Christ’s ultimate sacrifice of Himself, remembered every time we eat the bread and drink the cup, is echoed in the smaller self-sacrifice of the couple in church and the multiple self-sacrifices I saw as my father cared for my mother over the last years of her life.

When she thought that he was her father and argued with him about waiting for her date to pick her up for the dance, he seem unfazed. It had to have hurt — his wife not recognizing him and waiting for another man.

When she wouldn’t sleep in the bed with him — she sat in a chair all night, because there was a strange man in her bed.

When she served him inedible foods.

He patiently coaxed her to do the right things and kept her safe from the wrong things.

He learned to do new things — laundry and cooking — that had been her domain.

He finally made the difficult decision to place her in a nursing home.

Then he visited her every day. Twice a day.

These days, I have so many people offering advice.

“Just march right in and stand there with your arms crossed,” one person said as I told him about a deplorable incident at the nursing home where my father is staying for rehab.

“You can’t bring him home yet,” another person said. “You need to take care of you and get some help set up.” And she is so right.

“Isn’t it time,” asked another friend, “to think about permanent placement?” No. No, it isn’t.

My father was my mentor, too. He taught me what it meant to care for the elderly. Partly through having me work at a nursing home when I was young, but mostly through his example, his constancy with my mother.

When I hit a roadblock these days, I try to think, how would he handle this?

I can’t ask him anymore. That hurts just to write it down. But his advice-giving days are past, and it’s up to me and my siblings to figure this out.

How do I care for an aging parent? One who argues and cajoles and insists that he’s fine. One who falls and faints and forgets how to shave. One who all his life has cared for other people.

I think that the answer is one day at a time.

Looking too far down the road is scary.

For now, I’ll work to get him home again, and then work to care for him. One day at a time.

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At the Fenimore Art Museum this summer

I began this blog when I was helping to care for my mother. It was my formal extensive education in elder-care, given by the best teacher, my father.

Now, I’ve taken the fallen mantle. My role has shifted to becoming the primary care-giver.

And I need to set Hot Dogs and Marmalade to rest. Over the summer, I have felt this blog hanging there, waiting, waiting.

But I can’t write about him.

Not here.

Not now.

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15 thoughts on “Moving On

  1. Dear Sally, I have followed your blog all along since the beginning. I don’t recall ever responding – not that I wasn’t moved to do so many times. I was too shy.

    I’ve missed you these last several months and have thought about you and wondered what was happening. I was guessing the truths about which you just wrote so eloquently.

    I can’t tell you the number of times that you have eased my pain, helped me to understand and bolstered my faith when it faltered. You have made many, many contributions to me. I can only acknowledge your compassionate gifts with this little note of deep gratitude.

    I am 75. My first and only true love is 81 and is in failing health. We have known each other for 60 years and have been married for 56. Breaking up is hard to do, but we know it is coming.

    Thank you for all your insights, for your honesty and for your innate and acquired wisdom. Thank you for sharing your pain and your triumphs. Thank you doesn’t seem half enough for all you have given we silent followers. May God’s Blessings continue to see you through. With much sincere gratitude, Pam Salisbury knitinspin@aol.com

  2. Although i left a brief comment once or twice, I echo what Pam wrote. One day I will fill you in on how you’ve helped me…. Thank you for sharing your heart. Much love.

  3. I’ve been praying for you. I was afraid your father had passed when you stopped blogging. I’m glad he hasn’t but I can tell something serious has happened, and I will continue to pray for you. *hugs*

  4. Dear Sally, I had also worried that your father had passed away when your lovely voice fell silent this summer. You have so much on your plate, you are wise to step away although I will continue to miss seeing your blog in my inbox. I’m sending love and prayers to your family. Remember to take care of yourself as well, dear friend, it is so easy to neglect our self when caring for others. xoxo

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