It was my dad this time which hasn't been the case since his stroke early last year. There was an incident in the dining room, Kind Nurse begins, but when she says he became unresponsive, I hear little else. My evening fills abruptly with phone calls, contingency plans, and a
swirl of thoughts that take on a life of their own, like great flocks of geese, rising from unseen resting places, squawking doubts and anxieties and so much more.
Dad is apparently mostly "with it" by the time he arrives at the hospital, although the word alert doesn't quite describe him apparently. I get an update via phone; the ER nurse tells me he isn't responding to commands. (Which is pretty typical for him, he's been leaving us for awhile.) "But," she says, "He has dementia you know." Why does this comment annoy me so much? I try to maintain my politeness, but I
want to shout, "He is MY father, Of course I know."
We talk about strategies to reach him, and she promises to keep in touch, and does. He's staying overnight for observation. The tests show nothing acute or definitive. He is resting comfortably, she says. So I try to do that too. Oh sweet oblivion of sleep.
The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes...
No small challenge there. No guarantees either.
You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.
Oh, here is the rock solid guarantee, the unfailing love and faithfulness of this God whose heart is kind. So I keep on singing, and I find a few of those reasons for giving thanks. It is, after all, Thursday. I turn the music loud, and then I turn it off and direct my geese thoughts into the direction of gratitude.
-Rare quiet moments surround me. I revel in them. I choose the music, or no music.
-Lesson plans are (uncharacteristically!) in place in detail, and Max is willing and able to invest his "Day Off" with Youngest Mystery. Which means it won't exactly be a day off. Again.)
-A kind friend's pizza casserole waited in the freezer like money in the bank. I've made a withdrawal, cashed it in. It's thawing on the countertop. No one will be hungry while I'm gone.
-Dad's lovely car, a tank full of gas, and good roads round out my list, and all, all of my "gratitudes"are gift wrapped in the reality of God present in my present, His Presence traveling with me.
When I walk into his room, his face is like a sunrise without clouds. "How did you know to find me here?" he queries. I wonder for a moment if he is remembering my (nonexistent) sense of direction, and if he is really asking where I parked and how I found the hospital and will I be able to get him home from here…but no, those are my questions (which we will face together, soon enough.) Three people are trying to take his blood pressure – they want a reading lying down, sitting up, and standing. Their machine isn't working, and the scene is a bit chaotic even for me, and I know what they want. And then I notice his hearing aids. Or rather, the absence thereof. He really doesn't have much of a chance of processing information if it doesn't get there in the first place. Soon the deed is done, and he's resting peacefully, wearing hearing aids and glasses. Again he thanks me for coming, for being there. And I tell him how glad I am to be present.
When they tell us we can head home, back to the retirement home that is now his home, he is very pleased. "Let's go!" The staff help him dress (sometimes I need to just be the daughter) and we discover he has no shoes to wear. I remember some discussion about him wanting the shoes OFF in the confusion of being transported to the hospital, so I reassure him that his shoes are waiting for him back in his room. And I hope, hope, hope I'm right, or there will be trouble. It seems that the distress regarding items lost is directly proportional to the frequency of such losses, which I think is extremely unfortunate for individuals with memory loss. And their daughters.
My inability to get anywhere always drove him crazy. "Just look," he'd say. "Pay At-TEN-tion!!" Which I did. But not to road signs and the like. I was more apt to observe hawks soaring above us, brightly colored laundry waving at me, or architectural line designs flowing past my window.
Fortunately, the attendant's directions are impeccable, and I am more
than a little pleased to make it from inner city hospital to remote retirement community seamlessly. Dad is more aware of the texture of the carpet beneath his shoeless toes, and I hear him shuffling his feet back and forth, then chuckling, "I'm not wearing shoes?!"
He seems genuinely glad to be back in his room, and oh joy, the shoes are waiting by his favorite chair. After a quick stop in his room, he's ready for a long trek across campus to visit mom in healthcare, to "check on her," as he does every day about this time. Here, he knows the way without pause, and I follow him, having learned weeks ago that he's found the quickest route down this hallway, turn here, up this ramp…
Mom is surprised and glad to see him. He dozes off in the chair, and is soon ready to head back for his evening meal. He is satisfied that she is okay (he seems to think he is still taking care of her, somehow, when he checks on her like this) and she is glad that he is no longer in the hospital.
Equilibrium is restored, sort of. All is well once again. Sort of. For now. But I feel my heart longing for something more….permanent, more finished, complete, a day when there won't be another "bad news" phone call, when all is well finally, eternally, forevermore. When, as Julian of Norwich said, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."
It is evening now in so many ways, and I remember the final verse of the song that carried me here hours ago; I do so want to be singing when the evening comes...
And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore
Bless the Lord, O my soul,O my soul.
Worship His holy name.
Sing like never before,O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name.