I was one of five boys in a presbyterian minister’s
family, to which everyone would always say, your poor mother!
And how dad did it on a pastor’s meager salary, beyond me.
Mom and dad were incredibly active with us. We hiked and camped and explored every corner
of the state. Dad was always interested in everything.
He always had a new hobby. Mom always had a full time job, of course,
as a mother and a pastor’s wife. But when she was in her 40s, she went back
to school, and became a nurse, and started another career.
What I think about every day is we don’t have a lot of time left to be together.
And at a time when my parents need me, I wonder, where am I going to find even more time?
�� mom and dad moved to a retirement community
five years ago, about a half an hour away from me.
Mom didn’t have to cook as much and dad finally gave up driving.
The social community was good for them.>>Hi, how are you?
>>Good.>>Like most folks in their 90s, they have
issues, hearing and memory loss, and some medical problems.
But things went well. [knocking]
>>Come in.>>Until last year, when it was obvious they
needed a higher level of care.>>How are you doing, dear?
>>I’m good. How are you doing?
>>I’m doing great.>>It was time for them to move from independent
to assisted living. I brought your pants.
Dad refused, even, though, it was in the same complex.
No more change, he said. It was difficult, until the fall.
We knew that one of them would probably fall at some point.
And we always thought it would be mom falling and breaking her hip, since she had become
more and more unsteady. The fall changed everything.
>>He was making breakfast, as he always did, and I was just getting out of bed in the other
room. And all of a sudden, he started screaming.
�� And he didn’t stop.
>>Dad fell, breaking his 92 year old leg, his femur.
The repair was difficult, screwing and lashing his brittle bones together, hoping for the
best. So mom and dad are apart for the first time
in 72 years. While dad was in the hospital, we moved her
to assisted living. We tried to make the new apartment as similar
as possible to the old one. Everybody came together to get mom settled
after so much change and trauma. We knew this was an entirely new ball game.
My brothers and their families, some of them live far away, they all pitched in.
We’re lucky, we all get along. I can’t imagine doing it yourself.
>>Either you or dad, from your medical care, I get bills about every other day.
>>My oldest brother, Ted, a retired physician, lives two hours away.
He’s able to help with the big decisions, the medical management, and he manages their
bills.>>I found this on the floor.
This is a battery for your hearing aid.>>We make the plans for our future not counting
on that we’re going to take care of our parents forever.
I think the biggest problem for me is you never quite know what’s going to happen next.
Either mom thinks there’s an emergency, or there really is an emergency, dad falls, or
somebody falls, and trying to, from long distance, figure out how important these things are.
��>>Dad has been in a convalescent home for
four months, four months of waiting to see if his bones will heal.
That first night, he was on a mattress on the floor.
They were afraid he’d roll out of a bed and mess up his leg.
He looked so alone and scared. And the first few weeks, he was really out
of it, he was confused. And I thought this is the beginning of the
end. He wasn’t gonna walk again and maybe he wasn’t
even gonna make it out of there. But slowly, recovery began.
Dad is the most determined person I know. He’d call it faith, working at something,
ignoring your own doubts.>>You’ll be out there walking in the sunlight,
dad.>>I’m gonna try tomorrow.
>>His bible has never been far away from his eyes.
He started doing puzzles and cross word. He’d wheel around the wing, visiting and praying
with other patients, most of whom were silent with Alzheimer’s.
And every week, he was clearer, a little stronger. Rare is the day when mom doesn’t go to visit
dad. By us or by bus.
You want me to take your key? It’s just the latest chapter in a long devoted
routine.>>Look who I found.
I found a pretty girl waiting outside.>>Their time together is always important
for us all. I want dad to feel connected and in control
of his life. It’s hard to see my parents struggle with
what should be simple. I have to remember to respect their independence.
I often feel as if I’m hovering like an over anxious parent.
I am not their parent and they are not children. But the feeling, the sense of duty is the
same. And caring for them at this time in our lives
stirs up a lot of feelings. All my brothers and I feel a real mix of emotions.
>>You know, I’m 70 years old. I realize that they’re just 22 and 23 years
older than me. And I think in my last 20, 22 years, that’s
gone by, you know.>>Yeah, I know.
>>So fast. I real I, holy cow, you know.
You start realizing, I start realizing my own mortality.
>>Yeah, I know.>>Well…
>>And the fear of decrepitude.>>Okay.
Now go ahead and stand up for me please. Yes, sir.
Very nice there.>>Wow.
After months of work, dad’s fortitude, the same stubbornness that frustrated me as son,
gets him on his feet.>>Right leg forward.
Awesome.>>It’s the first time he’s been able to put
full weight on his leg, the first test to see if he’ll be able to walk.
Go, dad go.>>That was exciting.
>>That was exciting to see you walk, to see you get up on your own two feet.
That was exciting.>>Well, I’m happy.
>>I’ve gotten so close to mom in the last few months.
We’ve had a lot of time together. She’s been lonely without dad.
And I realize that care giving is also the simple act of companionship, just being there.
We worry about her because of her sight and her hearing, you know, the normal diversions,
reading, watching TV, are very difficult for her.
>>Yeah. But she did come out with the sentence, I
just need somebody to lean on, I guess, I need a shoulder to lean on.
��>>Got a little welcoming party there.
>>Yea, hi.>>It’s finally the day, dad gets to go home.
How is it going to work at home? He’s going to a new place, new surroundings,
new people. And he wouldn’t admit it, but he has new needs.
>>Are you welcoming me home?>>He’s forgotten a lot.
And mom too has changed in the last four months. She’s had people to help.
We all know that dad coming home, we hope that his daily companionship will lift his
spirits, that resuming a daily routine together will help them both.
I guess it’s hard to argue with the success of a 72 year marriage.
>>It’s not easy, sometimes it’s pretty hard to know what to do.
Wow. Do what we can.
And keep going. And live as we can, okay?
And love each other. And help each other.
Is that all right? Say a few words, say yes.