Community Magazine

My Story – Part 2

By Careforparents @Careforparents

Over the next few weeks, I took stock in all mom and dad had. If they had been eligible for social services, many resources could have been deemed to my mom in order to prevent what is called “spousal impoverishment”, but back then I wasn’t even aware there might be any kind of program that may have helped them. So I went to visit the Edwards-Jones man finding out what stocks they had and how to liquidate them, I put the farm and the lake property up for sale and I sold the antique gun and coin collections. I hated doing it but there was a huge hospital bill to be paid and continuing bills coming in every week.

During the same, unsettling time, I learned to bathe, shave, and dress dad. At that point, he was still continent of bowel and bladder, thank goodness. However, I cleaned him and cleaned the house, I tried to cook – something I still am not very good at, I figured out all that was wrong in the house going to the public library to check out books in order to learn to fix it myself. I plumbed in a hand-held shower as our one-bathroom home never had a shower in it. I climbed up onto the roof and patched a bad place. I cleaned the chimney flue so we could use the fireplace in the winter and because we had a leak in a pipe in the backyard I dug it up by myself with a shovel so when the plumber came to fix it, the cost would be minimal. During all these long and tiring days, I wondered what the hell I had done to deserve all this. That was back when I thought about rewards and deserving people.

We finally got the bill paid, but two months later dad was back in the hospital . This time, dad had surgery for an aortic aneurysm. During his stay, because a hospital is where the sick people are, he contracted staph infection in his arm and required even more surgery. On the way back from the second surgery, dad coded on the elevator. Here, I must tell you that he was a southern gentleman who tipped his hat, held doors and coats for ladies, never cursed in front of a woman and did not believe in any “airy-fairy” stuff like life after death other than you went to heaven or hell. He was charming with piercing blue eyes and in his prime had a swagger like John Wayne. He loved to play practical jokes on people. He also loved motorcycles and the first time I was in Sturgis was 1976. I tell you all this so you understand that to tell me what happened when he coded must have truly happened since he was no nonsense in some areas of his life.

He said that in the elevator he mother came to him and said, “Come on Jack, it’s time to go”. He said it did not look like his mother but he knew it was her. He refused her and said, “I can’t go yet, I haven’t got Kelli raised”. Did I tell you I was 29 when I came home? The words weighed on me like bricks. I wasn’t raised? What the hell did that mean? I was mature enough to finish college, get a good job, leave it to come home and fix all the problems there, or at least try to. Years later, I realized what he meant was that although I was home and taking care of business, I had martyred myself and whined around about how pitiful it was that this was my plight. I had a pretty cushy life prior to 1992 and dad had always been my safety net when I screwed up.

New hospital stay made for a new bill to pay. Luckily my parents had been antique dealers so I sold most of the furniture in the house to pay that bill. My days were filled with conversations with adolescents and senior citizens. No friends, no cell phone, no Internet – yet, and no cable. I knew I was becoming depressed and it seemed that as I felt the blues rise higher and higher in my soul, dad’s needs became demands. Eventually, the only thing he could control was the TV remote and so he would run the volume up so high it shook the windows in the house. One day, the TV was off and having just gotten him into his chair I turned my back to do something when he turned on the TV and it came on so loud it scared the crap out of me! I whirled around, grabbed the remote from his hand and bopped him on the head with it. That startled us both! I knew I what I had done was very wrong – today 20 years later it is illegal – and that we, as a family needed some kind of help but I didn’t know what.

I called dad’s physician’s nurse and as I was asking her what could be done, I began crying and I must have sounded very desperate because the nurse left work and drove to the house to make sure I was okay. She had her boss sign a physician order for Medicare Home Health and one week later my salvation arrived in blue scrubs for one hour every day between 10 and 11 to bathe and dress dad as well as change his bed. My meditation was to watch Bob Barker and his Price Is Right Beauties. I lived for that hour.

However, mom was mad. She felt that since I was home anyway, I could just do it and not have people , strangers no less, in our home every day. These women who came were my age and honestly my only contact with the outside world. I could not allow mom to manipulate me into telling them we did not need their services. I probably needed them more than dad. One day, a new attendant came by the name of Shirley and she was different – older than the others. She seemed to take a shine to mom and they became fast friends. This friendship took our family down a road that altered our lives forever and the effects are still felt today. I will tell you about that next post.

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