Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Dad.

Last week, Tina blogged about a book/video that spoke to her.  She shared the book (Days With My Father) with me at a crop. It spoke to me, too. You see, we both are the "sandwich" generation--taking care of aging parents, and taking care of our children. Having a parent with memory problems is a problem with which we both are familiar. I cried reading the last few pages of that book.
I cried, but I was also incredibly inspired.  Inspired in a way I hadn't been in a while.  A couple days later, I made it a point to take my camera to my parent's home, and take pictures differently.

Out of respect for my Dad, I hadn't really taken "real" photos of him for some time.  After his stroke 6 years ago, his body and his personality were completely transformed.  He spent 8 months in a rehab facility, learning to do everything all over.  A year later, he fell and  shattered his hip, requiring another stay in an extended care facility.  Not an easy pill to swallow for a former marathon runner and fitness fanatic.  I'd be angry, too.  When his mother suffered 10 years with Alzheimer's, he spoke about how he never would want to go out like that.  Watching her struggle was so painful for him, and he didn't wish that on anyone. So with dignity in mind, I'm always careful photographing him.

His stroke also changed his personality.  Growing up, he was the most positive, motivational person in my life.  Our educational options were, "What college are you attending?"  He knew education was the key to the foundation of any adult life, and preached about it.  He told us we could do anything if we put our mind to it.  And my sisters and I believed him.  As with most strokes, the brain damage resulted in a drastic personality shift.  He is able to be pleasant, but for the most part, is only so for short time periods.  Small things upset him greatly.  So sad sometimes.  I miss that man.

He hates having his picture taken.  I got my love of photography from him.  We're used to being behind the lens, not in front.  Usually, the hand in front of his face accompanies a tongue sticking out of his mouth and a groan.
My mom and I constantly nag at him to keep his feet up.  They're always swollen.  It is so painful for him to just walk.  But he isn't a good patient.  He does whatever he wants, when he wants.  When he does comply, it's a big deal.  I told him I'd stop taking pictures if he put them up.  (I lied.)

He misses using a straight razor.  The little things are sometimes the things you miss the most, he says.  I get that.

He took a bad spill in June, leaving a bad gash on his forehead.  It is still healing.  He goes everywhere with his walker now.
Always within reach are the remote, several Western books, a napkin, and his glasses.  He keeps his radio, the newspaper, his shoes, and earphones nearby as well.

He often speaks of how he's got to build up his muscles so he can start jogging again.  He gave me $10 to buy him a ten speed bike at a garage sale last week.  I didn't have the heart to break the news to him, so I went along with it.  I told him it sold before I got there.
He and my mom are both home-bound because of health issues.  They live in the house we grew up in, a mile from my home now.  I love being so close to them.  I see them almost daily.

My parents enjoy driving the other nuts.  They get bored and get under the other's skin on a regular basis.  Sometimes it is sad.  Sometimes it is annoying.  Most all the time, it is comical to see one of them geeked up about zinging the other one on purpose.  What can I say...we're twisted like that.

Crazy-expensive high-tech chair that he hates.  He sits in it incorrectly just to drive me nuts, and then laughs when I comment on it.  Part of the dance we do.
Dad, with our son, Griffin.  This is the type of picture I used to take.  Nothing wrong with that at all.  In fact, I like this shot quite a lot.  But I'm not going to ignore the other stuff anymore.  The chair, the walker, the real details.  Wishing things were different isn't going to change what really exists.  I have been so focused on telling our kids what my father was like growing up, simply because I didn't want them to think my Dad was this mean, bitter old guy who swears all them all the time (which quite honestly,is an accurate description of who he is now--despite the smile on his face in the photo.)  My focusing on the past hasn't allowed me to be fully present with him TODAY.
For what it is worth, I hope someone else hears that today.
Here is the online version of the book.  Worth the 10 minutes to read, for sure.

Thank you, Tina.  I love you for sharing this! 

Enjoy your day...


Anonymous said...

very touching, thanl you for sharing

Margie said...

Thank you for this post-it is hard to face the reality of our parents' failing health and aging-and you are not alone, your story sounds so familiar (husband's parents)-thanks for reminding us to appreciate who they are now, too!

Michelle said...

Thank you for sharing. This just about has me in tears. I just lost my father in law back in August to cancer. How I wish he were still here. I wish I would of taken more photos. The last set of photos I have are from a year ago. He didn't want photos anymore. I wish I would of thought to record the little things.. like all the items next to his spot on the couch. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of him. I think he was at his house the other night, if you believe in that kind of thing. Hubby was there painting his dad's room and the cover fell off the door bell. :)

Paula Clare said...

Hi Trish,
Wow...I can feel the pain in your photos...and how important a lesson to learn that being present in the present, regardless how difficult, is a gift we give ourselves.

Said a prayer for both you and your parents...thanks for sharing this.

Cindy said...

this is touching Trish! it's hard seeing our parents go through life like this. but it's great you are there for them & capturing tender moments.

BabyBokChoy said...

very very very touching read.

Jewel said...

I am reading this through my tears. What a powerful message to everyone. Enjoy and document the today, warts and all. I didn't take pictures during my Mom's illness but wish so much I would have even though it would be painful to look at, it would be nice to have years later.

Anonymous said...


terrip32 said...

Crying here!! You just described my dad! But mine didn't have a stroke. He has kidney failure. The way you described your dad is how my dad is. You made me realize that I should think about the "now" and stop thinking about how he was.

Marge said...

and the tears are flowing.....beautiful Trish and so very real.