My dad had had a series of strokes later in life. Some of them were so “small” that they went undetected. The first one I remember had temporarily paralyzed the left side of his jaw. Not realizing the magnitude of what was happening, we made jokes about it.
Because he was such a quiet man, we commented that his jaw was sliding off his face as he never used it. It eventually returned to his normal appearance. It wasn’t until later on that we learned his downward jaw had been the result of one of the strokes he had had.
Dad started keeping odd hours. He’d be awake while the rest of us were asleep and vise-versa. He was in need of care 24-7 and it became too overwhelming at times. We were told that the insurance he had would not cover a live-in aide – but they did have a list of nursing homes. We did our best to avoid it, but it finally got to the point that we needed assistance. I don’t know how we ended up with the facility that we did. It was depressing.
He actually had strength left in his hands as he would hang on for dear life to any person who would assist him in walking out to the car or whatever. We called it “the death grip”. I would always stop in our tracks and tell him, “If you would like to continue moving, you will have to ease up on your grip because you are hurting me!”
He’d laugh and his juices would come out and he’d start to drool. It was painful watching him go downhill.
We took my dad to therapy. He was a favorite patient as he was very cooperative to do everything he was told. Except for one time when my mom took him out of bed and tried walking with him and decided to put him back before someone came in and caught them doing something that they weren’t supposed to do.
Mom would push on one side and race around the bed to pull him. He laughed while she frantically moved from one side to the other saying, “Someone is coming. I don’t even know if we were suppose to get you out of bed”
Mom had done therapy with him. They were both quite worn out when an orderly came in and brightly asked, “Are you ready for physical therapy?”
Mom looked at dad and nodded “yes” while he shook his head “No”.
Because the muscles in his mouth weren’t working the way they should, it became difficult to swallow anything. We started out with thick juices and nectars to a no liquid restriction. He was given wet sponges to suck on in order to quench his thirst.
Each stroke left him paralyzed just a little bit more. He walked with a cane. His speech became difficult to understand. So difficult that many didn’t realize he still had the ability to think and still had a sharp mind.
One time my brother’s family brought to him a vase of flowers. When he was alone in the room, he removed the flowers and drank the water from the vase. My sister-in-law was upset. She said she hadn’t even cleaned the vase all that well, and would have done a better job had she known. It was dirty water. He was desperately thirsty though.
He would get out of bed and fall and was restrained and would cry that he was being tied up. And we would cry with him. Sometimes we would loosen the bands and then report our deeds to the nurse.
I really don’t remember how long he’d been there. But the insurance company gave us a deadline for when they would no longer supply payment for keeping him there. Eleven days before the deadline he had another stroke. An ambulance took him to the hospital that was near the house of my family. Someone went to see him every day.
We were able to teach him some finger spelling – which of course came slow. And if we asked a question that wasn’t a “yes” or “no” question – it became quite a game to figure out the answer.
One time my mom went up to one of the members of the Church to thank him for visiting my dad. He was taken aback and asked sincerely, “How did you know that?”
“He told me.”
“He told you?”
“But when I saw him . . . I didn’t know he could . . . How did he tell you?”
Dad loved chocolate milk shakes and hamburgers. He had been hooked up to a feeding tube. Daddy had already lost so much weight. His legs were thin – like arms. He still had tastable desires.
Once my mom asked, “If he’s just going to die anyway, what difference does it make whether we give him a milk shake or not.”
The comment brought on some cold hearted stares, but seeing the sadness in mom’s eyes, they knew she was right. It was highly probable that he would not be leaving the hospital alive. And he did get at least two milk shakes out of the deal.
My dad never returned to the nursing home. He spent his 54th birthday in the hospital – he was laid to rest a month later. He’d been released from his physical body. He had endured to the end. And he hadn’t complained. How amazing is that?
It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. My brother, Patrick, and I both gave talks. We played a recording of Corey reading his poem (as he was on his mission at the time) and my sister, Kayla sang Amy Grant’s “Father’s Eyes” It was a really nice tribute. I miss my dad. I think of him quite a bit on really awesome days that take place in the fall.