It hasn’t been an easy year for any of us. Perhaps least of all for him.
Oh it’s a good place and he is well looked after. I get to see him most days, it’s close to where I live, the staff are mostly warm and friendly and everything is clean and pleasant. They even have a coffee shop and a Bonsai garden, and weekly activities for the residence.
How do you get used to living without the person you’ve been with for over 50 years?
How do you cope with moving from your home into one room?
How do you deal with strangers taking care of even your most intimate needs?
How do you get used to eating institution-type food after a life time of home-cooked meals?
How do you pass the many hours of each day without being able to make tea for your wife and having her tell you stories about what your adult children are up to?
These changes are made harder by the fact he has Parkinson’s (hence the need for full time care) and, with it, some dementia.
Lately, these are some of the questions that are on his mind:
What happens if my Parkinson’s gets too bad for me to continue working here? (He was a doctor; retired many years ago. But sometimes he thinks he’s on the staff at the Care Home).
When I die, what will you do with all my clothes and photographs?
When I die, where will all my children live? And how will they survive without a father to provide for them? (He had seven children, 23 grandchildren and some great grand children. I have to remind him we will be fine and have our own homes and families now, and make our own money, while telling him we will always miss him, when that day arrives.)
Was I a failure as a Father? (No. No, Dad. Not ever. Not perfect – who is? But never a failure.)
What would my wife think if she was here? (He sometimes forgets Mom’s name).
I wish I could have done something to prevent my wife from passing away. Could I have?
(Again as a doctor I think he feels he should have been able to prevent her death, somehow).
My heart has broken more than once this year. And often it breaks all over again during these painfully slow conversations as he struggles to express himself.
As Mom said so often, growing old isn’t for sissies.