Smiles are coming more often now as he has his baby, a puppy dog and a new set of wheels. This new world, for Dad, is complete and that's all I could ask for.

He can't tell us he's in pain, so when his daily walks up and down the halls suddenly stopped, it was obvious the mass developing below his mid section, was taking its toll. The pain medication was helping but thankfully Hospice suggested a wheelchair. Up until now, when I'd introduce Dad to a walker or a cane, just to help steady himself, he'd either forget it was his or just refuse to use it. The wheelchair is a hit.

It's just the right size so he can motor around with his feet, and he thinks it's great. He can maneuver himself anywhere, which I'm sure isn't the best scenario for the nursing home staff, but he's a happy camper he's mobile again.

Several of the women in the home have "babies" they have claimed as their own. They sit for hours caring for the dolls, reliving their days as young mothers. After watching the women for several days, Dad apparently decided he needed a baby too, so he began stealing theirs. There's nothing more frightening for a mother than when she can't find her baby, whether it's imaginary or not, so Dad was given a boy doll. He named it "Tammy."

Although this behavior could be considered disturbing to some people, I absolutely love he has connected with someone, whether it's imaginary or not. He was so excited about the baby, the staff also gave him a stuffed dog, which he named "Sparky" and the three of them wheel up and down the hallways for hours, stopping every once in awhile to hold the baby up proudly and smile that proud father smile. He's even talked more since "having" his baby, and although it's still mostly gibberish, it's obvious he's found some happiness.

He slept through most of my visit this week, complete with drooling and half open eyes that were fogged over. Sitting just outside the dining room, in his wheelchair, with my favorite bib overalls on, he just wouldn't wake up. I really started to worry when the nurse said he wouldn't stir when they tried to entice him with breakfast. Dad never misses a meal and usually will start on everyone else's, once he's finished with his own.

I asked for a cup of coffee and when his eyes would open just a bit I'd put the cup to his mouth and very slowly he'd take some sips. It took awhile but eventually he drank the whole cup and his eyes popped wide open. I wasn't sure if it was from the caffeine or the woman sitting next to us who started crowing like a rooster. When she started getting even louder with the cock-a-doodle-doo's, I started laughing, and pretty soon they all joined in. Dad looked at us like we were all crazy and as he was wheeling himself down the hallway, I could just hear him say (if only he could) "I'm getting away from these cackling old women."

When the nurse came back to check on us she said when she tucked Dad into bed one night, he took her hand and said, "you're a dandy."

While taking care of Dad all those years the closest he would come to giving me a compliment was with this clever little rhyme, "you're a dandy, little Miss Sandy."

I miss him, but so thankful, he has someone he thinks is dandy.

Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at