Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday With My Father

I have just returned home from visiting my father in his nursing home. Even though much of my life I have not had an especially close relationship with my father, I want to honor him in his old age and visit him on a regular basis, along with my siblings, so he does not feel forgotten. Regular visits from the family also keeps the nursing home on its toes. They never know when we will be there. I must admit, however, that whenever I am there the staff is very nice and seem to be attentive to the needs of the patients. As I walk around, I observe everything. In my opinion, the majority of people who work as caregivers for the elderly are saints. The elderly can be very trying at times. Today my father was in a fairly good mood but there was also a fair amount of complaining, i.e., he had been in bed too long, the nurses were too slow, dinner wasn't very good, he was "cramped", he had some diaper rash or other irritation, and his fingers on one hand were drawing up on him. Some of these were legitimate complaints and others were merely perceptions of time exasperated by some impatience. I did my best to comfort his mind and reassure him everything would be fine. I made sure the nursing staff attended to his physical concerns. While waiting for the nurses to check him out and get him back in bed, I walked in the hallway and prayed for Dad and all the other patients in the home. Theirs is not a happy existence and the thought of having the experience myself fills me with dread.

Although I will visit my father in the nursing home as long as he lives, I must admit that I hate going there. It is a sad and exhausting experience. Whenever I do it I am wiped out by the time I leave. On the way home today I stopped for a cheeseburger and a Diet Coke. I simply sat in my car with the windows down, letting the cool autumn air revive me. The drive home was beautiful. The leaves are changing colors and the trees are still full. The air is cool and the sun is bright. Sitting here in my room at my tiny desk, the house smells of the chili that is simmering in the crock pot. It is a beautiful day.

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