I should have gone on Father's Day, but I didn't. The one day a year specifically meant for dads and I don't show up for my own father.
The visits with Dad are usually so unnerving it takes me several weeks to talk myself into going back. When he's awake most times I'll find him pedaling up and down the hallway in his wheelchair and he gets agitated if I try to stop him from where ever he's going. I've tried showing up at lunchtime but he's so infatuated with eating everyone else's' meal, it doesn't usually pan out very well either.
The hospice nurses and staff give me weekly reports and sometimes they say he even talked to them but I haven't been so lucky. If he does speak it's only a couple of words that sound more like gibberish than anything else. He fully recovered from the aspirated food in his lungs, which caused him to have breathing problems, although the prostrate issues are becoming more evident.
I decided to change it up and visit him in the morning. For quite awhile he wouldn't allow the staff to get him out of bed until after 10, so I was hoping he'd be awake. When they said he was in his room sleeping I figured this was going to be a short visit as I typically can't get him to wake up and the longer I try to entice him to open his eyes the more I have to duck from his swings to leave him alone.
When I sat next to him on his bed I didn't expect his eyes to pop open.
"What's your name?" he said so clearly I was shocked for a minute I couldn't think of what to say. My name didn't ring a bell for him so then I added, your daughter. Still, nothing, and I chided myself for expecting him to recognize me.
"I didn't do anything," he said which was his favorite one liner when I'd ask what happened to the box of snacks he'd consume in less than 30 minutes, as he'd try to wipe the remnants off his mouth.
We sat and stared at each other for the longest time and then I started rambling on about our many days and evenings we spent sitting at the picnic table in his backyard enjoying the birds and a glass of lemonade. He was listening but not saying a word. I continued on, talking about my childhood home in which I took care of him for so many years.
The Hospice nurse arrived for his morning shower and still he wouldn't take his eyes off of mine. She seemed just as surprised he was so focused and was staring at me so intently. She left quietly and I began reciting his stories from World War II he'd told me so many times they will be forever engrained in my memory.
He asked me again who I was. I told him again. He simply said, "miss" and I swear there were tears in his eyes or maybe those were mine.
The nurse came back. It was time to go. I told him I loved him.
He said, "what's your name again?"
Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org