Sunday, October 14, 2012

Duct Tape Love

Life is a circle
I’m caught in the middle
Between sons and parents
1000 miles divide us
It is duct tape that binds us.

 This summer I had the honor and pleasure of staying with my 80 year old parents in MA for six weeks. After two months in a rehab hospital dealing with congestive heart failure and late stage Parkinson's Disease, dad decided it was time to be back at home so he could sleep with mom. I left SC and traveled North to help with the transition from hospital to home.  I learned the true meaning of what it is to be of “middle age”.

 One week into my time away from home I received word from Russell, 21, that he needed duct tape. I found this odd as my dad has always supplied his children and grandchildren with an endless supply of the stuff. When I reminded him where our many rolls were kept he simply stated, “We need more.” When I inquired as to what he could possibly need more for, he simply responded, “You don’t want to know. And don’t worry. We’ve got it covered.” Oh my!  I was 1000 miles away. There was nothing I could do, but I had terrible visions of the state of my home.

During the second week of my stay mom woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me that she needed to go to the hospital. Mom’s healthy. She doesn’t go to the hospital. That’s dad’s thing.  She stated that her blood pressure was sky high and she wasn’t feeling right.  She told me that I needed to stay home with dad and that Eric, my brother, would be with her in the ER. She said dad was sleeping and not to wake him. But as soon as she was gone dad knew something was wrong. When I told him he began to tremble and shake as he does when he’s stressed. He grabbed my hand and asked me to lie down with him until morning. As I laid there next to him on their small double bed with him shaking next to me I thought, “How does  mom sleep like this?”

As soon as the sun rose dad was desperate for news of mom and asked that I call Eric. With the news that mom was being admitted to monitor blood pressure and stabilize medication I assured dad that mom would be fine and would likely be home the next day.
Dad insisted that we go visit mom and spend the day with her in the hospital. This was a switch! We’ve spent many days and nights by my father’s hospital bedside over the years, but never my mom’s.  With dad’s Parkinson’s disease, arthritic spine and congestive heart failure, getting him dressed and out the door to travel to the hospital would be no easy undertaking. But there was no discussion of not going.
Dad insisted that he wanted to look nice for mom.  He wanted his hair and beard trimmed. He wanted a shower and he did not want to wear sweat pants and a tee shirt. He wanted real slacks and a button shirt. Oh my . . . this was going to take awhile. And so we began.

It’s not easy to trim the hair and beard on the bobbling head of a Parkinson’s patient! But we managed. Dad showered and I waited outside the bathroom door. When he opened the door he had shaving cream all over his face and he held out a razor for me to shave him. As I watched his head bobble up and down I thought, “No Way!”  My dad was gracious and understood my fear. He then slowly turned back into the bathroom and stood in front of the sink, shaking from head to toes. I watched in terror as my father’s trembling hand approached his bobbling head. I thought to myself, “This is going to be ugly and bloody”. But in an amazing demonstration of focus, determination and muscle memory, my father’s hand and head stopped shaking. He shaved his face and throat around his beard with perfection and not a drop of blood.
We then began the slow process of dressing, one button at a time. It seemed to take forever.  I could see the pain in his whole body as we finally loaded him into the car for the drive to the hospital. He looked so frail and weak. A mere shadow of the strong man I remember. And yet, he did look handsome.

When we arrived at the hospital I could tell that my dad was in a hurry to get in to see my mom. I reminded him to wait until I could get around to help him out of the car. But by the time I came around to his door, he had literally somersaulted out of the car. He looked up at me, smiled and stated, “I get out that way sometimes.”  This time it hadn’t worked so well. My dad had split his head open and blood was pouring down his newly shaved face and neatly trimmed hair. I told my father that we would have to go into the ER for some stitches. He immediately responded in the strong voice I remember, “NO HOSPITAL’s for me, EVER again!” He then reached into his pocket and pulled out his handkerchief and held it over the wound. He then instructed me to get the duct tape out of the glove box.
Playing by my dad’s rules we patched and cleaned him up, put a hat on his head and went to visit mom. Upon entering the hospital room, my mother sat up, smiled and said, “oh Ted you look so handsome!”It was worth every terrifying moment of the journey to get there.

Life is a circle, and stuck in the middle is not a bad place to be.
Happy 58th Anniversary mom and dad!!!