My mother wanted to be with her husband on her birthday so she drives 1.5 hours to Tampa to go and get him out of his assisted care living home and bring him back to Clermont.  I worry about her driving because she is weak but she makes it back Friday evening.  I’m teaching yoga and watching children.  When I get home from work I bought her birthday flowers that my amazing Florist made for me, Kim Jemison with Kim E’s Flowers in Groveland.  My mom really loves getting flowers, especially red roses.  I tell Kim this and she puts some gorgeous red roses in for me.  My mom thinks they are my flowers and not for her.  She reads the card and sees they are hers and she tears up.  When I was younger, my mother bought me flowers for all my dance performances, graduations, birthdays, weddings, any major event.  I’m excited to shower her with pretty flowers and return the gift.  She is going through so much.  She is terribly sick and my father is sick with Alzheimer’s.  She slept in the same bed as my mom almost every night since they were 17 when they met.  They fell in love in college and have been together ever since.  Now that he is in an assisted care facility they are separated for the first time in 47 years of marriage.  She is lonely, sad for him and hurting with her own illnesses.  

I see my dad as he walks in the house.  I help him get ready for bed by changing his cloths, diapers and help him in bed.  I go to sleep and sleep all night.  It’s been emotionally draining, moving my parents house and dealing with their illness.  I wake up and find out my mom didn’t sleep much because my dad defecated himself at night and she had to help clean him up.  This is why he needs to be in a home or a full time nurse.  She is exhausted.  My dad walks around the house and sees his furniture at my house and says it looks pretty nice.  He walks around the house and gets confused walking in and out of the closets.  At one point he walked out of the house and was out by the main road.  When I found out he left my mom raced in the car to get him.  He doesn’t stop moving the whole time he’s at my house.  Up and down and moving things.  It’s exhausting because he has to be watched the whole time.  He is calm and happy when he walks and so am I because I know he his ok.

We eat breakfast and my dad sits in the lazy boy chair.  I give him my 4 year old son River to hold and he does.  He hugs him, kisses him on the forehead and calls him a good boy.  My son lets my father hold him as he enjoys his cuddles.  The kids and I make cupcakes for my mom but we do something wrong and they don’t turn out right.  Either way the kids had a blast working on the project.  I take my dad and the kids to the park to give my mom some time to sleep.  At the park we walk down the pier and the kids race back and forth past us.  He is happy to be outside and walking around.  The kids climb all the ropes at the park and my father pushes my son on the swing.  I tickle River’s legs as he swings by me and he giggles.  This makes my father smile.  River does have the best laugh.  Pepper, my 6 year old girl, is super athletic.  She excels at the bars in gymnastics and she swings across the monkey bars effortlessly, back and forth and back and forth.

We go back home.  I see my dad defecated himself again.  I don’t say a word because I don’t want him to feel bad.  He is very sensitive and cries with embarrassment easy.  I take him straight to the bathroom and I have to strip him down and help him in the shower.  My mom helps to wash him while I throw away the diaper and wash his jeans in the sink before putting them in the washing machine. I tell him don’t worry, it’s ok.  We get him dressed again and he’s all better.  I feel bad because it’s my mom’s birthday and it has been a lot of work taking care of my dad and we messed up the cupcakes.  I’m happy he’s home but I also worry because my mom is run down.  I have to help him go to the bathroom every time.  He forgets so I ask him, do you have to go to the bathroom?  I help him get ready for bed and we all go to bed early exhausted.

I used to walk with my dad when I was younger, around my neighborhood, on vacations, to work, etc.   The next morning around 6am I take my dad for a walk around my neighborhood.  We often bonded a lot on these walks.  My dad was a lonely guy and he suffered from depression.  He had a very rough childhood.  His mother was a heavy smoker and when he was in 6th grade he found her dead in the shower.  His father never recovered from her death and was an alcoholic.  When my dad was 26 his father died.  When my dad was 16 he accidentally killed a 13 year old girl.  She was playing chicken in the road.  He saw her and swerved to get out of the way and the girl ran in the same way that he ran.  The next year he was in college and he met my mother.  He said he knew he had to be with her.  He was super poor and he would steal steaks at the grocery store to make her dinner.  He often ate at a pizza place by waiting for people to finish their meal and then if they didn’t finish all their pizza then he would eat their left overs.  His grandma used to send him care packages of food and he said she seemed to be the only one who really gave him love.  His father was too wrapped up in his own grief and alcohol.  My grandfather didn’t work for a long time and was living off the rent in a 6 flat that he owned.  Before my grandfather stopped working he used to be a plumber.  My mother was motivated and a real go getter.  My father found this attractive.  He used to tell me all these stories of his youth on our walks.  He was a prankster in college.  He would tease the weight lifting guy in his dorm and cemented his weights onto the floor in the basement.  I laugh as I think of his humor during his hard times.  My dad was always a very funny guy.  When we walk now, he is quiet. I talk a lot and tell him about the neighborhood and about his grandchildren.  I ask him if he wants a long walk or a short one.  He wants a long walk so we walk around the small lake in the neighboring subdivision and my subdivision.  We are headed home and at the end of the walk about 3 blocks from home and he is falling asleep.  I’m afraid he will fall over asleep and hurt himself.  I call my mom and she comes to pick him up in a flash.  I am learning how much my father can do now and it’s a lot less.  Next time we go on a shorter walk.  When we get back to the house they pack up and she has a driver take her and my father back to the home in Tampa and I get ready to go to work.  I have 8 hours of Thai work to do.  My mom said that when they got back to Tampa my dad slept the whole time but was soaked.  He wouldn’t go to the bathroom before but needed to.  I’m happy that I got to walk with my father again.  He trusts me and I can feel the peace when I’m with him.  I don’t care if I have to help change him.  He can’t help it, he is sick and I’m just happy to be spending time with him.  I really love him so much and I’m grateful for this time.  I forgot how special our walks are.  I hope to continue walking with my dad as much as we can.  These are special times.