Safe Travels, Dad

My Dad

I spent a lot of time with my dad this weekend. Dad is 85 and lives in a locked nursing home unit. He is locked in because my mom is fading away with Alzheimer’s and my dad cannot wrap his head around the idea of letting her go. Dad literally cannot conceive of allowing her to go without him. He has had multiple strokes as his body-mind fights against the inevitable.

Dad obsesses about my mom’s deterioration, he yells at her and even smacks her because she no longer knows who he is. All this craziness from a calm, gentle soul who adores his wife. This from a man who rarely raised his voice before my mom got sick. Now Dad tries to guard my mom. He constantly worries that someone on the nursing home staff will hurt her or kill her. His behavior has gotten so bad, that my siblings and I reluctantly moved him to a locked unit. Now Dad rarely gets to see the love of his life.

This move has been another heartbreak for Dad. And it is heartbreaking for me to watch. Now that he’s separated from my mom, he is rapidly deteriorating physically. This man who never took medications and was always strong and tough as nails is fading fast now that his last job – the job of protecting his wife – has ended.

I sat with my dad as he slept this weekend. I watched him sleep and thought about everything that he has been through. My dad is strong willed and tenacious; he doesn’t give up easily. As a young man, he pushed and worked and became the first person in his family to go to college. Then he pushed and he worked and he became an award winning engineer with patents in his name. He pushed and he worked and he went much further than his parents every dreamed was possible for him. And then life threw something at him that only got worse when he pushed against it. Life threw something at him that demanded surrender and allowance.

I have not seen my dad for about  6 weeks, and there has been a big shift in his appearance and his behavior; he has transformed in just a few short weeks. He has stopped trying to halt my mom’s deterioration. He has finally stopped pushing. He has let go. I sat and looked at my dad’s body that has aged so much in just a few weeks. I sat with Dad and watched his peaceful face as he slept. I sat with Dad and I knew that he will soon let go completely and leave this body and this life that had become so painful for him. I sat with my dad and I cheered him on; YES!  Let go, Dad. Surrender. Allow life to be however it is. Let go and leave all the pain behind.

This could be a story about the pain of love lost or the harsh realities of aging and dying in America today. My Dad’s past few years have overflowed with both of those things. But for me, this is a lesson in how life can deteriorate into pain and pure misery if I grasp at it and try to hold it still. My Dad’s story teaches me what can happen if I resist and refuse to flow with whatever life throws at me. It’s a lesson about how I can create huge problems and pain when I resist the change that is an inevitable part of life.

I love you, Dad.  Leave this painful place.  Let go and go.  I will miss you so AND it’s OK to go now. Safe travels, Dad.

Flow Like a River

St Vrain

“May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing 
and no holding back, the way it is with children.” 

~Rainier Maria Rilke

When I get impatient with myself or the world, I try to pause long enough to remember the river, the flow of the river that I love so much.  When life does not instantly present me with the exact and perfect outcome – the perfect and glorious outcome I had all planned out in my head in excruciating detail – at those times, I try to remember to just breathe and flow with how things ARE, rather than how I wish they would be.

Resistance is futile; life is NEVER perfect. And life unfolds in its own wild and wonderful way, no matter how hard I kick and scream and struggle and fight against what IS, trying desperately to get the exact future I had imagined and dreamed of.

Sit and breathe. And breathe some more.

Until I can stop whining and fighting against what is unfolding right here and now in front of me.

How horrible to miss out on today because it doesn’t look exactly like my dream of it yesterday!

Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is.
The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”

~Virginia Satir

Puppy Morning

I am awake before the sun. I want – no I NEED to go to the bathroom! But puppy is asleep and I can hear it raining outside; do I really want to wake up puppy and risk a trek outside in the dark rainy pre-dawn hour? My bladder say YES, so I get up and go to the bathroom. Puppy is instantly awake and ready to rumble, but amazingly she settles back down when I return to bed. Thank God for a crate trained puppy!

The alarm wakes both puppy and me a few hours later. I dress quickly and take her out for her morning pee. It’s still raining and the sprinklers are running as well. Oh joy. Third morning in a row for the sprinklers. Apparently we still haven’t figure out the sprinkler program. Mommy dog (that’s me) must go out with puppy or puppy won’t do her business – that rule seems to be written in the puppy code! I am a good dog, so out I go with puppy into the rain. The yard is a swamp and soon both puppy and I are wet and bedraggled. I stand in the swampy grass, wondering what the neighbors think of my “wet dog” in pajamas look!

Finally back inside, mission accomplished. We head upstairs – I walk, puppy romps right behind me. I feel like breaking into a chorus of “Me and my Shadow”. We wake up the big blonde “puppy”, my daughter. And she is so thrilled to be awakened at 7am – NOT! Why does school starts at the earliest hour for teenagers? Are we adults cruel hearted, or what?!

I race back downstairs with puppy at my heels. It is time to feed puppy and 2 very impatient cats. The cats see puppy and hiss their disdain for this furry interloper. The cats have probably been plotting puppy’s demise all night. Luckily puppy is bigger than both of them or puppy would be a chewed up cat toy by now.

Upstairs, downstairs, upstairs again – it’s the puppy diet and exercise plan!

Cats fed, check. Puppy fed. check. Daughter fed, check. Back out into the swamp for puppy’s post-meal pee, check. I sit down – FINALLY – and then my daughter comes in the house to say she’s missed the bus somehow.A bus that stops right next to our house. I race upstairs, grab the dog crate for the car, load puppy and daughter up – wait! mommy dog needs shoes. Finally dressed, load puppies into the car and hurry to school to drop off big puppy.

Here is a pic of Big Blonde puppy with Little Labradoodle puppy:

When we arrive at big puppy’s Middle School, it is a ghost town; no cars in the circle, no kids. It is quiet – too quiet. Just me, my daughter and puppy. Something is wrong here. Is it Saturday or something?! No, it’s definitely Wednesday. So, where is everybody?

“Oh yeah, it’s a late start day!”, my daughter exclaims. “School starts two hours late today!”… I stare at her in disbelief. What, pray tell, happened to the memo that was supposed to tell mom and dad about THAT? My daughter laughs hysterically. “Please don’t beat me, mom!” … Did I mention that she’s quite dramatic as well as forgetful?

I laugh with her and turn the car around for home. My daughter has the right idea; what else is there to do except laugh hysterically?

It’s been a crazy morning and I am just getting started. It’s been a puppy morning.