Daddy is already dressed when I get to the nursing home. He wakes easily when I say, “Hi, Daddy.” He grabs my hand and holds it to his cheek and says, “Oh, my sweet daughter. I love you!”
I say, “I love you, too. Wanna get up and go have a snack?”
“Do I want to have a snack,” he repeats (because he repeats just about everything I say to him). “Yes, let’s go have a snack.”
I take him to the bathroom first, because he always has to pee. It’s amazing to me that this man, who has forgotten just about everything in his life, is still continent. He may not remember much, but he knows when he needs to go.
I show him where the sink is so he can wash his hands and hand him a paper towel to dry them. He tosses it in the corner wastebasket—also an amazing feat for someone who is legally blind.
I put him in his wheelchair and say, “Here, I’ll give you a free ride.”
“You’re going to give me a free ride? Aren’t you something! You’re so special.”
“You’re special, too, Daddy,” I say.
I wheel him to the day room and park him at a table. I know where the stash of fig bars is kept, so I get him one and a glass of apple juice.
“Oh, good old cold apple juice,” he says. “Hits the spot.”
He gobbles up his fig bar and drinks two more glasses (which I don’t mind since he struggles with constipation and apple juice just might help him go).
His gaze turns to the window and he looks at the world outside the nursing home, which he rarely sees anymore. His expression is pensive as he stares out the window.
“What’s on your mind, Daddy?”
“Gosh at the traffic,” he says.
“Daddy, are you healthy and happy?” This is the question I ask on every visit.
“Healthy and happy,” he repeats. “Yes, I’m healthy and happy.”
He continues to look outside, humming his happy tune.
“Gosh at the traffic.”
I realize, once again, that my dad lives only in the present. He doesn’t worry about the future. He knows he’ll be fed. He knows someone will take him to the bathroom. He knows he has a “good ole bed” to sleep in (and puts it to good use, since sleeping is his favorite activity). He doesn’t know where it is or how to get there, but he knows someone will get him there eventually.
He sits there, humming a happy tune (the same one he’s been humming for almost two years), and looking outside at the traffic.
I wonder if he’s not more fortunate than we realize. He’s healthy and happy, kind to his visitors, enjoys the simple pleasures of the sunlight on the passing traffic outside, and sings his happy tune. Doesn’t worry about a thing.
I think we could take a lesson from my sweet father, so afflicted with dementia that he’s able to recognize hardly anyone these days, couldn’t troubleshoot anything to save his life, can’t dress himself without help, remembers almost nothing about his past, and most of the time admits that his mind is a complete blank. He doesn’t know where he is. He doesn’t know how old he is. He doesn’t know how pitiful his once brilliant mind is now. But he knows he’s going to be taken care of and he’s happy just knowing that.
Why can’t I be more like my father? I know I’ll be taken care of, too. My heavenly Father will provide for all my needs. Daddy wants for nothing. That’s how I should be. Satisfied with what the Father gives to me so graciously.
My father has been my hero for all my life. And now, as I become a member of the senior set myself, I recognize that he’s still teaching me important stuff about life.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.