All kinds of words.
Big, flowery, no-one-knows-what-they-mean-anymore words.
Small, succinct, take-your-breath-away words.
I love them.
I take them with me everywhere I go – to the park, to the store, in my car as I drive around this massive Metroplex.
Some words taste good, others are bitter, and some make me physically ill.
But, good, bad, big, small, sweet or bitter I love them all.
I don’t have a favorite, that wouldn’t be right. I do, however, have some I detest. I find it particularly satisfying when I can substitute a word I don’t like for something less offensive. It makes me feel as though I’ve expanded the word universe – albeit in a very small way.
I’m currently trying to take my big basket of words and form them into sentences, paragraphs, chapters to explain the last few years I spent with Daddy.
Most of these words are so powerful they prevent my getting past them. Often, this impedes progress, but these words will not be ignored.
They will not be glossed over. They will be dealt with. They will be reckoned with.
And they will not be happy until I have paid them their due.
It is a painful, heartbreaking, process.
I’m just glad that the words, sometimes my friends, sometimes my enemies, are always my companions.
Dad took the pencil in his hand and stared blankly at the paper.
“Daddy, draw a clock face.”
“Mr. XXXXX, do you know how to draw a clock face?”
“I don’t never draw nothin’.” Dad said, shoving the paper back at the doctor.
“Okay, I’ll start it for you.” The doctor said, as he drew a circle on the paper, and slid the paper and pencil back across the table to Dad.
“You can do this, XXX.” XXXX said and I gave her a look that would wilt flowers. She stopped before saying anything else.
I put my hand on Dad’s arm, and gently said, “Daddy, it’s okay. This isn’t a pass/fail kind of test.”
I’m finding that as I begin to write the memories and feelings come flooding in and overwhelm me. I’ve decided that instead of my usual write-as-you-go style, I’m going to start writing down notes and points to plot on the timeline. For some reason, it’s important to me that I get things as they happened in order…..I mean exactly, and I’m working mostly from memory here. Dad’s girlfriend is nowhere to be found, but my sister is helping fill in some fo the gaps. I think she’s as excited about this project as I am.
Okay, this is what I have so far….
Daddy’s death was a shock. Not in the fact that he died, but rather in the manner in which he died.
It wasn’t all rainbow-pooping unicorns where the dying patient simply slows their breathing and then stops altogether all the while looking like they just stepped off a magazine cover.
It was brutal, raw, loud, excruciating to watch and is now forever emblazoned on my heart and my brain.
In some ways, the heartbreak of watching him die was a lot like the heartbreak of watching him leave me when I was six years old.
The difference being that even at six I knew he was just a phone call away.
Now, his body lays in a grave in a national cemetery. Daddy was a U.S. Army veteran during peacetime, and he served because it was expected of him. He left when his four years were up, and he never looked back.
He did that a lot.
Never looking back.
The one exception was me.
He tried hard not to, from the moment when Mom told him she was pregnant and he responded with “Shit! I don’t want kids”, to the years he avoided being anything remotely resembling a father, he tried very hard.
I think by the time my half-sister came along, Daddy had resigned himself to the fact that sometimes you are a father like it or not.
Not that much effort went into her upbringing either.
Still, we loved him white hot and fierce because..well, because that’s what most little girls do. They worship, adore and love their daddies with complete abandon.
So, it was with us.
And, it made this journey so much harder than either of us thought it would be.
This isn’t a tribute to a doting father. This is a raw, real, sometimes funny, look at what it’s like to deal with an 8-yr. old who shaves.
According to the poll, I’ll sell at least ten copies if I can get this thing written and find a publisher interested in it.
No, I will NOT self-publish.
Yes, I’m a snobbish bitchy-writer who refuses to even consider vanity publishing.
I’ll keep you semi-posted, because I’m finding the task not so much daunting as painful.
I write a line, grab a tissue, wipe the tears and proceed.
I do this over and over.
I’m running out of tissues.
Thank you, really..no, really, thank you for believing I can do this.
I’ll mention all of you on my dedication page. You’ll know I mean you, because it’ll say “To all of You”.
So, here goes nothing and if my posts here are sporadic, remember you only have yourselves to blame….or thank.
In June I lost my Daddy.
It was not totally unexpected…well, yes it was.
What I mean is he was 77, and that’s good, but up until two weeks before he died he was like the Energizer bunny…with Alzheimer’s.
Then, he got pneumonia and he was gone.
The last two years had been a time of complete change for Daddy as he went from living with a girlfriend, to not even remembering who she, he, or most of his family and friends were anymore.
He bounced from mental hospital to nursing home for all but about six months of the time as he was alternately lucid and then combative, docile one minute and aggressive the next.
Anyone who has had to deal with Alzheimer’s knows what I’m talking about.
I was the constant in his life, and right up to the end he held onto that connection. The dull blue of his eyes lighted with a spark of….recognition? Affection? Who knew. All I did know was that he seemed happy to see me when I visited him every week.
I don’t remember when I started taking him a Pepsi and a Snickers bar during these visits, but I don’t remember not taking them so I must have been doing it a while.
He loved chocolate, and he loved Pepsi..not Coke, not Sprite…just Pepsi.
He’d sit and slowly eat the candy bar and sip the soda as I prattled on about people and places he no longer knew during my visit.
We’d wash his face and hands with the wipes I carry when he was done, and then he’d sometimes take hold of my hand and we’d stroll the corridors of the nursing home.
Sometimes he’d speak, but his language skills were gone and the words were either a nonsensical stream or chopped into one or two-word phrases.
Except on the last visit to him when as I was leaving he asked, “Where are you going?”
“Back to work, Daddy.”
“Are you coming back?”
“Of course I am.”
“Soon. I’ll be back soon, Daddy.”
And as I walked away, I turned to wave and he called out, “I’ll wait right here for you then.”
I smiled at the sweetness of the moment. A fleeting glimpse, a reminder of who he still was even if he was lost most of the time.
I cried all the way back to work.
On the night of visitation, I relived this memory as I stood over Daddy’s body and marveled at how good they’d been able to make him look given how brutal his death had been.
I slipped the Snickers bar in his shirt pocket as my husband walked up and put his arm around me.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“A Snickers bar. I always brought one when I visited him, so it seemed appropriate.”
My husband stood there for a moment as I softly sobbed.
“You do know what their slogan is, don’t you?” he finally asked.
“Not going anywhere for a while?”
Hey, how y’all been?
What’s new in your world?
Me? I’m okay…still giggling over the letter I got from the Social Security Administration.
They’re terribly sorry about the loss of my father, but umm…could I send them back the meager amount they deposited in his account on the third of June?
Awful sorry to ask, but you know he didn’t live the entire month of June so yeah we need that money back.
If I thought I’d be able to remain civil I’d call, but I do know my limitations.
Instead I’m going to send back a letter and tell them I’m awfully sorry about their financial issues, but Daddy has exactly $169 left in his account, and his “estate” consists of a box of old photographs, so if they think there’s any money to be returned they’re sadly mistaken.
I’m still awaiting the statements from the hospital…you know the ones that list all the charges and the “Amount Due” at the bottom? Yeah, those ought to be good for a few laughs for sure.
Everything else that’s coming in I’m writing “Deceased – June 19, 2012″ and sending back.
I guess we’ll see if the government can get money from a dead person.
Lord knows enough of them vote with the government’s blessing.
…at 2:30 a.m. on June 19th, 2012 Daddy went home….finally, after over a week of suffering and fighting.
So, now he gets to play basketball and baseball and visit with is mom, dad, brothers and sister who went before him.
He gets to party with his friends that went before him, and most of all he gets to be the fun-loving man I knew before Alzheimer’s tore him apart the last two years.
Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty he’s free at last.
And me…I am taking a break.
A long break.
I’ll be back in mid-July.
But, don’t you forget about me ya hear? And tell all your friends to come visit my blog, poke around and comment on the things they like.
God Bless You, my friends.
For those of you wondering about my lack of presence lately…..
Daddy is in the ICU, acute respiratory failure due to aspiration pneumonia….
Between work and hospital, no time for anything else.
And, my funny bone’s broken.
I’ll be back…someday.
In the meantime, I’ll be posting some repeats over the next couple of weeks.
I apologize for the redundant redundancy, but these days I’m lucky to remember to put on pants before leaving the house in the morning.
And not in any blatant hail-of-gunfire kinda way. No, the bureaucracy that is the U.S. Gubmint is trying to kill me by making me have a rage-induced aneurism.
Let me attempt to explain…
My father is a veteran. He’s also a 176 lb. infant these days, due to advancing Alzheimer’s. Knowing the end is inevitable I decide to do the responsible daughter thing and get funeral pre-arrangements going. (That’s another post..one with more funny and less rage.)
In my naiveté, I figure this will be a relatively *simple* process.
*proceeds to laugh hysterically for a moment*
Whew…oh yes, where was I?
Convo with me and funeral director:
Me: Hi, I’m here to do some funeral planning for my father. He’s a veteran, so the interment and perpetual care are already taken care of…
FD: Do you have the DD-214?
Me: The wha…?
FD: The DD-214 form. It’s your father’s discharge from the military.
Me: I have a discharge certificate.
FD:*shaking her head* That’s not the DD-214. I’ll get you the web address to send an electronic request for the DD-214. It’s a fairly simple process.
The rest of the funeral pre-arrangement meeting went well….even though I laughed at precisely the wrong moments. Every. Time.
I got back to my computer and proceeded to place the e-request for a copy of Dad’s DD-214.
This morning I got this e-mail from an Archive Technician (who knew they existed and are they like The Librarian?):
I have been assigned your request submitted for verification of military service for the veteran:
Wyle E. Cattle
Center Policy is that if the veteran is living, their signature is required to authorized release of information from military records. If the veteran is not living, immediate next-of-kin must send written request for information. Please identify your relationship to the veteran as you signed the web request indicating you were the veteran.
Additionally, the service number, provided in your request, is identifying a veteran with a different name than you submitted. Was the veteran known by a different name during his military career?
There was no place to indicate on the form who I am, but I requested the form on behalf of my father. I am Awesome Sauciness (nee Cattlecall).
My father is Wyle E. Cattlecall. I didn’t apply for the form under the name you list below. I applied for it under his name, Wyle E. Cattlecall.
He is a resident at ******* in Redacted, TX. It’s a nursing home and he is in their secured wing as an elopement risk. He has advanced Alzheimer’s and no language/writing skills.
I requested the DD-214 as part of funeral pre-planning arrangements I am making with You Stab ‘Em, We Slab ‘Em Funeral Home in Dallas, TX.
And I wait.
I have no faith I’ll get what I ask. At least not until I trot one of these Archive Technicians over to the home and have him/her attempt to communicate with Dad.
Though if they are anything like the Librarian I would hope they have a Babelfish in their knapsack. Then, maybe, I could talk to Dad too.
Then maybe I could explain to him why his next SS benefit check will be $200 short.
It’s because the SSA thinks Dad is not in a nursing home.
And that’s because the TX Dept of Health and Human Services told them that in October of 2011 Dad left the home he was in in Ft. Worth.
That part is true, but he wasn’t discharged he was transferred to a home where I wouldn’t get calls at 2:00 a.m. to tell me he had been beaten up again and had a head injury…again.
So the new home he went to filed all the necessary paperwork for the transfer, only somewhere along the bureaucratic nightmare of tangled webs the whole thing got lost.
I’ve now spoken to FOUR different people and gotten FOUR different answers about Dad’s benefits.
The only consistency is their insistence that I’m not someone to whom they may speak, but they must speak to Dad.
I finally told the last twit that I’d be glad to drive her over to the home and see, just see, how much of a conversation she could have with him.
I probably screamed that into the phone.
I have my own caseworker now.
And, probably, my own surveillance satellite.
….when my Alzheimer-riddled father makes no sense when he speaks.
Truth be told, that’s most days.
And then, the light flickers on for a moment and as I ready to leave the nursing home where he spends his days, lost in a fog, he speaks the only lucid sentences I’ve heard in months..
“When will you be back?”
“Soon, Daddy, very soon. I love you.”
“I love you too, baby.”
He will sometimes try to follow me out the secured doorway or hold onto my hand until both our arms are stretched to their limits.
And the light flickers out again, the connection broken, he turns to shuffle down the hall – alone in his world, lost to mine.