Sunday, April 27, 2008

Who's Got a Ticket To Ride?

Some days Papa T.'s dementia hovers over us with an unexpected intensity. Other days it's not nearly as noticeable. It's a disease that likes to tease its victims with moments of clarity and suffocate them with hours of angst. The moment you walk in the room, you can tell what kind of day..or hour...he's having. Caring for him gives our days a roller coaster kind of feel. Spending a day and a half in St. Louis having a rip roaring good time seemed to make his illness that much more noticeable when we came home. It's not been a very good weekend for Papa T.. He feels the same he has for weeks, but he has been more agitated and frustrated than usual these last two days.

Yesterday, we agreed to leave at 3pm for an early dinner because a large convention was in town, and the restaurants would be full by 5pm. Papa T. doesn't like waiting on a table or food. At 3pm we practically had to drag him out of his recliner and away from his book on tape to get him dressed. He acted like he didn't want to go. I'm not sure what happened while he was dressing, but I heard him swear several times. He always uses the same two phrases, back to back whenever he cusses. He came out of the bedroom kind of confused, and by the time we got his hair combed, put his shoes on and got him out of the door, it felt as if we'd already been gone an hour. He didn't want to use his cane when we got to Cracker Barrel and was noticeably upset when Sissy made him use it. We always get a chuckle when he orders his food because he always asks what the vegetable of the day is (lima beans) and never orders it. He gets the same thing every time: macaroni and cheese, applesauce, green beans, carrots and cornbread. Although, last night he tripped us up and ordered slaw instead of carrots. He seemed annoyed when our salads arrived, and we had something to eat but he didn't. He didn't talk much during dinner, and he seemed glad to get home. This morning in church he seemed agitated and kept asking out loud what was going on during a performance by some guest musicians who were outstanding. Despite the soul soothing music he just seemed to want the whole thing to be over so he could get back to his recliner. He used to always enjoy church and loved singing the hymns. Now it seems like an obligation to him. In fact, doing anything other than sitting in his chair and listening to books on tape seems like an intrusion. I think he's depressed. In fact, I'm sure he is. I'm just not sure what to do about it.

The man can't see and can't hear. His days are filled with solitude, despite our efforts to engage him in conversation and activities. His blindness and deafness make sure of that. He will walk around the block with Sissy, but he will sit right there in his chair and avoid the sunshine unless she forces him outside. This man who once ran an entire school district and was sharp as a tack is now without a kingdom to rule. His opinions are not sought anymore, and his self esteem is almost nonexistent. He once managed a multi-million dollar budget. Two weeks ago, he could barely scribble his name on his tax returns. He is obviously going downhill, and as I watched him eat last night I realized we were getting a glimpse of how quickly it is happening. Now, tomorrow he may bounce back into a better mood and have a great day. He may walk all the way around the neighborhood, whistle while he's listening to his book and ask for "refreshments" (Pop-Tarts or Cheetos) at 9pm. He may even tell us a story about his youth. You just never know. We still have plenty of good days with him. It's just that the bad days are more noticeable. We will ride the roller coaster which ever way it turns, but this weekend we seemed to take a little dip. Who knows what's around the next curve. Let's hope we're going up this week.


Jason said...

Oh, hula. It's like I said. Tragic, but funny. I'm sorry.

oreneta said...


It certainly isn't easy is it. Hang in there.

Amy said...

It's a tough ride, Hula...My husband's father is going through a very similar situation......
God Bless,

Mama Mia said...

I know you do...but just treasure him while he's here even though its hard to watch. Your'e a good daughter in law hula : )

Anonymous said...

Hi Hula,
Have yall thought of putting him in a hospice program? The dr has to order it...but...hospice is such a great help. Not only now, but later. Now, yall need the help and support and knowledge or rather, reassurances to take care of him. They just back you you..spell you, whatever you need. Most people wait til way late in the game. The sooner, the better, I think. We've experienced hospice with 3 of our parents, some sooner, some later. The sooner one was the hardest one, and we're so glad that we had them. Hospice isn't about death. It's about living till you die. God bless yall. Vicky