This will be a lengthy blog post. I don’t know that there’s any point to it—I guess I’ll see if I make one or not. But a lot has happened in the life of my family over the last week and a half, and I want to set it down on paper.
First, let me say a big thank you to the people of the Wheatland Parish for allowing us to be gone for a week and a half to take care of these matters. Your prayers, love, and support is appreciated more than I can say. I have always known that there are awesome people in this parish, and this simply confirmed it. Thank you again.
Second, let me say that I know that what we’ve been through is no different from what lots and lots of families go through. If your family has not gone through it yet, there’s a good chance that you will. And of course, in some families, loved ones pass away before you have the chance to go through it, and that’s an entirely different issue. I know there’s nothing special about us. Still, it’s one thing to know it happens in the abstract, it’s another thing to go through it yourself.
So, a week ago Thursday, on June 16, Wanda and I left around 8:00 a.m. to go to Armour to visit my parents. This was a planned visit. We thought we’d go down there, give Dad his Father’s Day present and Mom her birthday present, spend the night, and leave the next day. We’ve made trips like that many times, and this would be just one more.
When we got there, shortly after noon, we discovered that Dad had slid out of bed the night before. Dad’s ninety-three and has had occasional falls in the past. He could not get himself up (as he has not been able to for a while), but since it was around 10:00 p.m. he told Mom not to call for help, and she listened. So he spent the night on the floor, with neither of them getting much sleep. Finally, around 7:00 a.m., Mom called for help (over Dad’s protestations) and some friends came over, picked him up, and set him in his chair. That’s where he was when we got there.
We probably should have called for the ambulance right then. But neither Mom nor Dad wanted us to, so we decided, well, he’s really tired now. Maybe if he rests today and gets a good night’s sleep tonight he’ll feel better in the morning. And we let things stand that way for the day.
The next morning, we discovered Dad had barely moved from where he’d been placed for bed. He could barely move. So there was nothing for it but to call the ambulance, again over Dad’s protestations. Dad went into the hospital Friday morning. On Saturday, they told us we should start preparing for Dad to go into a nursing home, at least for a while.
They were not on any waiting lists anywhere, so this potentially posed a big problem. I went to the nursing home in Armour and talked to them. Dad did not want to be in a nursing home at all—he has an intense dislike for them—but if Dad had to be in one, we knew Armour would be where he wanted to be. But, of course, it was Saturday, so the regular business people weren’t there. I also sent an email to the nursing home people in Gettysburg, because I know them, to see what the possibility might be of getting Dad admitted there. There was a substantial possibility, of course, that there would be no openings in either place, and Dad might simply have to go wherever there was a spot.
Meanwhile, Dad was getting worse, and by early afternoon on Sunday we were facing the possibility that he might not make it out of the hospital at all. By evening, though, he had made a substantial recovery. He was not well, by any means, but there was no longer danger of imminent death. So things were looking up a little bit.
Monday, we received good news. Either by luck or by God smiling on us (your mileage may vary, but I know which I believe), there was an opening in the Armour nursing home for Dad. He was continuing to improve, at least to the point where he could be in the nursing home by Tuesday.
That left the question of what Mom would do. She did not need to be in a nursing home—she’s ninety-one, and you don’t get to ninety-one without some sort of problems, but she is capable of taking care of herself. On the other hand, she does not drive, so the only way she would have to see Dad is if friends and neighbors took her out there. They have good friends and neighbors in Armour—the people there have treated them great—but asking them to take her out there and bring her back every day, the way they would both want, seemed a bit too much. So, Mom made the decision to move out to the nursing home with Dad. Again, there was the question of whether there would be a place there for her. But again, either by luck or by God smiling on us (and again, I know which I believe), there not only would be a spot for Mom by the end of the week, but she would be able to share the same room with Dad. That was incredibly good news.
But it also meant there was a lot to do in a short time. We needed to get them both ready to go out there. We had lots of paperwork to do and lots of details to take care of. We also had to get their house ready to be vacant for a while, and if you know me you know I’m about the worst person in the world to be in charge of home maintenance. But again, their friends and neighbors helped us, and we got everything done.
I should have mentioned this a long time ago, but I could neither have gotten everything done nor gotten through all this emotionally without the tremendous support, love, and encouragement of Wanda. She not only provided emotional support, but she thought of all kinds of things I never would have thought of. I cannot say enough for how wonderful she was through all the events of the last week and a half. Thank you does not seem like enough, but it’s all I can think of, so thank you, Wanda.
So, Mom and Dad are in a nursing home, at least for now. We hope that Dad will get strong enough that they can get back to their house. Will that happen? We’ll see. Only God knows.
So, is there any point to this? Did I learn anything from it? Is there anything I can pass along that will help anyone else?
Well, one of the things I learned is that it’s better to make preparations for this time of life in advance. Mom and Dad had signed Power of Attorney papers, and that made things easier, but that’s about all they’d done. It would have been easier if they’d done more, but that simply wasn’t and isn’t in their nature. They were determined to stay in their home as long as possible, and they did. And again, I’m not saying they can’t get back there. But if you’re an older person, it will be easier on your kids if you make these preparations ahead of time, rather than waiting for a crisis to come.
Another thing I learned is that we can all do things we didn’t know we could do. There were many times Wanda and I felt like we didn’t know what we were doing. But we jumped in and did it anyway, because someone had to. We asked for help when we needed it, we did our best, and we got things done—not perfectly, but well enough, at least for now.
And the third thing I learned, not for the first time, is how good God is and how often God is there for us. If Wanda and I hadn’t been going to Armour on June 16, Dad might not have made it—Mom would eventually have had to call for the ambulance herself at some point, but she wouldn’t have done it that morning, and Dad would’ve been even weaker when he went to the hospital. The people at the Armour nursing home told us that it never happens that a spot opens up there just at the time someone needs one, and it happened for us twice. And I also believe that, all the times when we didn’t know what to do but went ahead and did something anyway because we had to, God was with us and guided us through.
Again, I know there’s nothing special or unique about our family or this situation. It’s a situation that will happen to all of us if we live long enough. You can hold off Father Time for a while, but he always wins in the end. Each day we get on earth, and each day we get with our loved ones, is a gift from God. Take advantage of each of those gifts whenever you can.