15. “I want……Ham”

 

I can’t remember the exact date. It was after Mother’s Day, but before the end of May, 2003. No amount of ’scheduled crying’ was going to help prepare me for this day. My emotions went from one end of the spectrum to the other, and everything in between. If these events had been spread out over several days, I could have handled it better. The fact is that they weren’t. I was faced with one ‘hip pocket’ moment after another and before noon on that day, my hip pocket was full.

Mother had recovered sufficiently from her mastectomy. The time had arrived for her to leave the hospital. As much as we wanted Mother and Daddy to be transferred together, it was obvious that was not going to happen. We found a nursing home with a reputation for having a strong rehab program, and made arrangements for Mother to move in. This was moving day for her.

It was also the day for Mom’s visit. Darla traveled to Ballinger to pick her up. My other sister was gathering clothes and things that Mother was going to need at the nursing home. I was at the hospital.

Daddy had been basically comatose for several days. The night before an oncology nurse had tried crushing his meds into strawberry ice cream and he ate it.

This day began very early. I talked to the nurse about trying the strawberry ice cream trick again. He easily ate the ice cream. Yea!! Still not saying a word or even acknowledging my presence. After he finished that ice cream, I went and got him some more to see if he would eat that as well.

I was standing on the right side of his bed feeding him. An aide was on the other side doing something. I don’t remember what. As Daddy continued to open his mouth for the ice cream, still with his eye half open and fixed straight ahead, I said, “You sure are eating this ice cream well. Daddy, I would be happy to feed you anything , if you could just tell me what you want.” This man who had not spoken in several days said, “I want……ham.”

To say I was shocked was a major understatement. I replied, “Daddy, if I got you ham would you eat it?” He shook his head and replied, “Yes”, still not looking at me. I lifted my eyes to the aide on the other side of the bed who looked ever bit as shocked as I felt. With a huge smile I said, “Well, you heard the man. Let’s get him some ham.”

Within 30 minutes, he got his ham. He ate just a few bites. It was still very painful for him because of the blisters. The important thing, however, was that he began to talk. A word or two at first. Then a phrase. His voice had a strange tone, almost melodic. He slowly began to focus on my face when I talked to him. He was coming back to us! I was elated.

After breakfast I brought Mother into his room so that they could spend the morning together. She sat in a comfortable lounging chair next to his bed. Even though they talked to each other very little, they enjoyed being together.

It was around 10:00 a.m. Mom arrived. What a woman! This 92 year old refused to ride in a wheelchair, saving her steps down the long hospital halls. Not her. She walked into the hospital and walked out with only a cane for asistance. When she walked into Daddy’s room, I could barely contain my emotions. She went to Daddy’s bed, this her oldest son who was obviously dying, and not shedding a tear, began to talk to him. He talked to her in broken phrases that sometimes didn’t make sense. She stood beside his bed for about 45 minutes. She encouraged him, and made him laugh. Such a special time. She was soon ready to leave.

Mother and Daddy ate lunch together. Even while I was helping them eat, I was also working to get a phone line activated in Mother’s nursing home room, as well as packing up all that we had accumulated during her 5 1/2 weeks hospital stay.

About 2:00 p.m. it was time for me to take Mother to the nursing home. I brought Mother over to Daddy’s bed so they could say good by. This was going to be a major life change and in spite of Mother’s dementia, she understood it. Daddy was still not quite all there. I’m not sure he understood. Oh, how hard it was to watch.

I was going to have to leave Daddy for several hours which bothered me tremendously, but there was not much I could do about it. I can’t remember the exact times here. I took Mother to the nursing home. My sister met us there with Mother’s things from home. We both worked to get her settled. I went to Walmart to buy extra things she would need. Emotionally she held up very well. That made it less difficult for us.

I think I went back to the hospital to feed Daddy his supper. He was still not able to eat much, but he also got strawberry ice cream! His speech was still gradually improving. After feeding him, I went back to the nursing home, just to make sure Mother was alright.

The end of the day came and all I can say is that leaving my mother in that nursing home ranks right up at the top on my list of ‘hardest things I have ever done’. The tears overflowed.

When I arrived back at the hospital that evening to spend the night with Daddy, I looked in the mirror for the first time all day. I literally scared myself. All the emotion and fatigue from the day was showing on my face.

I was thankful the day from h.e.l.l. was over.

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