Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Home at last!

It's been a LONG month.  Actually longer than a month.  But I'm home.

Like Fort, I like to post things in order-but I want to start with my visit to dad's tax man.  Turned out to be a pretty amazing morning.

Besides getting dad moved into assisted living, I needed to get his taxes done before I came home.  He had almost everything I needed stacked up on his dining room table when we got there.  I just needed to take it to his tax guy and get it done.

I knew that he was someone dad knew from the VFW, but nothing else about him.   What a surprise I had on store for me…

Donna stayed back at dad's to pack things that we were going to move to his new apartment that afternoon.  When I got to John Gaynor's house, he invited me to his office.  I handed him the manila envelope with all of dad's tax papers and he started going through them.  Then I started looking around the room…WOW.  It was like a mini WWII Museum.  Mostly D-Day stuff.

Then I looked to my left - I was sitting next to a bookshelf.  Right next to me on the shelf was what looked like a Purple Heart.  So I asked him if it was a Purple Heart.  He said "Yes.  I got two of them".
I asked if I could take a picture of it - he said "sure".


Then he pointed out a picture of a church on the wall.  "That's Ste. Mere Eglise.  We parachuted over that church just after midnite on D-Day."


This is John in front of the church at the 70th Anniversary.  Note on the church steeple the parachute (there is also a mannequin hanging from the parachute).  As I was taking pictures, I was texting Donny and Nick and telling them the story.  Donny works at the base and has a friend who is very interested in WWII.  He asked if the church was the same church that was portrayed in the movie "The Longest Day" where Red Buttons portrayed the paratrooper who got hung up on the church steeple.  I asked John, and he said "Yes.  That was Jack Steele.  He's a buddy of mine".  Nick got online to check out the cast of the movie, and Red Buttons played John Steele.
Wow.


This is his invitation to the 70th Anniversary Ceremony

Some other random shots in his office…





John visits schools in the Melbourne area, and two seniors at a local high school interviewed John and wrote this story that he shared with me:

June 7, 2014

It was a cold, clear night on June 6, 1944, the day an 18 year old soldier jumped out of a C-47 into the dark, limitless sky, stumbling into the soon to be war zone.  As this anxious soldier landed in Ste. Mere Eglise, his job as a path finder was to find and illuminate the desired drop site for the following paratroopers.  Today, after 70 years, John Gaynor was able to relive this memory for the first time back in this village.

With street vendors and souvenir shops, this town was nothing like John remembered, except for the beautiful church in the middle of the square with the well-known mannequin of his friend John Steele hanging from the steeple.  Although his first experience in this town was fraught with fear, today, we hope, he experienced the feeling of honor and gratitude from the people who thanked and appreciated his service in liberating Ste. Mere Eglise.  We think everybody could see the spark in his eyes as we walked through those old, quaint streets.

John Gaynor belonged to the 82nd Airborne Division, 505th Regiment who made four combat jumps as a paratrooper in Sicily, Italy, Normandy, and Holland.  He served in the U.S. Army for 30 years with more experiences than our time with him would allow us to tell.  A few of these include the liberation of the concentration camp of Ludwigslust, Germany and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.  John is not a man who shows a lot of emotion but people can see in his face and conversation that he is proud of his service and life as a whole.  He tells people the key to his perseverance in getting through war and life is humor and honesty.

One last story that was very special to John that occurred this day was an introduction to a person he thought he would never meet.  It all began with a young woman, Juliette, who planned to be married on June 6, 1944.  Unfortunately, D-Day interrupted the young couple's plans and the wedding was postponed.  This young bride, however, was so thankful that her hometown was liberated by the Americans that she received an address of one American soldier and wrote several letters and postcards to him.  She expressed her gratitude for what he did even though her big day was nothing like she imagined.  

Seventy years later, John wondered if she was still in this area and living.  By chance, we came across a radio station who was looking for a good story and they jumped at the chance to locate this lady.  They were successful and took John to Juliette's house, which was surprisingly only 15 minutes away.   John said it was amazing to meet this grateful lady after all these years and that she actually remembered who he was!

This day couldn't have been more honoring for John Gaynor  We are so privileged to know this man and share in this experience with him.  Hopefully throughout the rest of the trip we are able to express how grateful we are for him and his service.

Tim Banowetz - Senior
Becca Mallette - Senior

***

Evidently these students travelled with John to the ceremony.  What an honor that was!

Here is a photo from Juliette -


John said she was just 15 years old when she was to be married in 1944!


After the war, the church, Ste. Mere Eglise, put in this stained glass window with the Blessed Virgin surrounded by paratroopers.  Beautiful!

This is John, "the liberator" signing autographs for residents of Ste. Mere Eglise.


John, working on dad's taxes (all while sharing stories from WWII!)  Notice the bottles in the background - and the sign on the wall… "LET'S PARTY"… 90 years old and still loves a good party!


Me and John.  I really did meet him!


This meeting was the first day of moving my dad into assisted living.  I wish I could have spent the whole day with John - I could listen to his stories all day.  When Donny & I go back in a couple of months, we're going to get together so Donny can meet him too. What an amazing man with an amazing story.  So thankful I got the opportunity to meet him!

Thank you for your service to this country John Gaynor!  

***

I thought that was a pretty good story to start with!  Now my adventure with dad.  

When we got to Florida, he was in rehab.  A wonderful rehab center - he was there last fall too.  My intention when we got there was one of two things - either he was moving to assisted living, or he was coming back to Dayton with us.

He was adamant that he did not want to come back to Ohio.  Having companion care for even 12 hours a day was unaffordable.  But telling him he had to move out of his place was not going to be easy.  
We requested the assistance of his family doctor, who agreed to talk to dad when he came to the Rehab Center.    Figured dad would listen to his doctor before he listened to us.

Unfortunately, dad had been having these episodes where he was blacking out.  He was also having TIAs (mini strokes).  The doctor was supposed to come in on Monday.  On Sunday morning, he had one of the episodes - probably one of the worst ones.  It was an opportunity for us to tell him that he couldn't go home.  He needed to be in a place where he would have round the clock care, if he needed it.  

A few weeks before when dad was in the hospital, I had talked to them about the possibility of moving him to assisted living.  They agreed that he needed 24/7 care.  They referred me to Care Patrol, a company that works to help people find Assisted Living.  I spoke with Rob Graham multiple times before getting to Florida.  He wanted to meet dad before setting up visits to facilities.  The problem was, we hadn't told dad yet.  So the day Rob came to visit, I told dad "hey look, I ran into an old friend here!  He wanted to meet you!"  I think I told him he was an old friend from school.  Dad was happy to meet him - happy that someone else was there besides me and Donna!  They had a nice conversation.  
What Rob was doing was getting to know dad to determine which facilities we were going to visit.
After we told dad he would have to go into assisted living, I said "remember my friend that you met the other day?  Your not going to believe what he does for a living!  He helps people find assisted living!" Little white lies, but no harm done.  He was ok with it!

So Rob set up visits to three different places.  All very nice.  Then dad said he wanted a place close to where he lived.  There was a place about a mile from dad's and Rob wasn't crazy about it, but he took us to visit.  Dad's only question was "does it have a big parking lot?"  He wanted to be sure he could take his car.  (He didn't know it yet, but that was the next thing to go).  
Anyway, we took dad to visit two places, my first choice and the one by his place (which wasn't very clean, had just had a flu outbreak).  On the way back to rehab, I said "we need to talk about this.  Let's compare the two places.  The first one is close to your place, and it has a big parking lot.  Those are the positives.  But if we compare the two, one is a Holiday Inn, and the other is a palace.  I want my dad to live like a king."  

After a lot of talking, and convincing, he finally agreed to MY first choice.  (The reason it was my first choice was it was very clean, right on the Indian River, they check on him every two hours - including in the middle of the night - nice dining room with a chef, nice bar looking out on the Indian River, Nurses night and day, would take care of his meds, clean his apartment, do his laundry, transportation to the grocery, WalMart, Walgreen) It was definitely the best choice.

Had to get all the arrangements made for movers, buy him a new bed, get his things packed at his house and moved.  In two days.  We moved one load on Thursday, movers came Friday (the 13th) morning and his bed was delivered at 8:30 that morning.  And he was calling at 9 a.m. "WHEN ARE YOU COMING TO GET ME???"  He had no clue the work that was going on behind the scenes.    We picked him up at 11 and took him to his new place.  Wow.  He walked in and it was just like walking into his "old" place.  We moved lots of pictures, some of his furniture, almost all of his clothes, some of his kitchen stuff.  He was pretty impressed.

Before moving out of Life Care Center, had to get some photos of his caregivers…they were AWESOME!

Above, dad and his nurse, Bonnie, and CNA Kathy (he called her smily- she was wonderful!)

Below, Carissa, his speech therapist.  She was amazing too.


(Just a note, while he was in Life Care Center, I became friends with three of his caregivers who had also lost a child - Ruby, who worked in the office, lost her son. He was in his 20s.  Carissa lost a baby, and one of housekeepers I became friends with lost a son also.  We are everywhere.  And somehow, we meet and we share our stories.  Helps to know I'm not alone.  Pretty sure our kids put us together. Thanks Melissa.)

So here are his new digs….

Looking out of his balcony at the Indian River - the Eau Gallie causeway is to the left.

Trying out his new bed...


Relaxing in his very own recliner (he just bought a couple of months ago!)


Having his first lunch in the dining room.


Sitting on the patio.


His new place.


A better view out his balcony!

That's his kitchen behind him - fridge and microwave - that's all he needs!



That was Friday.  It was good (for the most part).  Saturday was the day for the NEXT bomb to drop…
We were sitting by the pool relaxing and I started with "Wow.  Things having really gone well.  A lot of good things have happened in the last couple of weeks dad….I talked to your doctor yesterday.  He is not releasing you to drive."  His reaction was EXACTLY what I expected.  "BULLSHIT.  I will do whatever I want, dammit!  Sit down and shut up!!!!"  So I did.  I knew he needed some time to digest all this change…Five minutes later, he grabbed my hand and said "Except for this, you've done a great job.  I love you."  Wow.  Didn't expect THAT.  He seemed to be okay with it.  After just five minutes. I think he knew it was time.  He just wasn't going to down without a fight.  The next night, we went to the VFW for Karaoke.  There were probably 50 people there.  All very happy to see dad. (He always says everyone loves him.  It's true. I saw it with my own eyes!)  A lot of them pulled me aside to ask how he was doing.  I told them that he moved into assisted living and he wasn't driving anymore.  If he wanted to go to the VFW he would need to get a ride.  Everyone said they would help him out.  
Now, he just needs to make the phone calls for that!

Had a couple of visitors after he moved in - his friend Steve stopped by, then my cousins - his nieces and nephew and their spouses.  They visited the day before St. Patty's Day, so we decided to have lunch at Meg O'Malleys - local Irish Pub.  Had a great day!


Sharon & Jim and Donna

Me and Dad


Hugh, Patty and Sharon


Sharon & Jim


Tom & Mary



Hugh, Patty, Jim, Sharon, Tom, Mary, Donna, Dad, me


They LOVED dad's place - and that made it even better for him.  He really enjoyed the visit.
So did we.

That night, we told him we were leaving on Wednesday.  With his car.  He argued that for a few minutes, but gave up.  He knew.  Then he said "You can't leave Wednesday.  I have karaoke at City Limits on Wednesday."  So we compromised.  Since we were taking his car, we would take him to karaoke and leave on Thursday.



It's what he LOVES to do.  Sing.  So he did!

It was really hard to leave him.  I was having separation anxiety.  But it was ok.  I knew I was leaving him in good hands.  He was safe…and he would be happy.

I called him on Friday and he was ok.  He went to breakfast in the dining room - and lunch in the dining room.  People were sitting with him.  Monday, they took their shuttle to WalMart.  He went.  Yesterday he got his hair cut (they have a barber shop too) AND a shower.  (that's a big deal for my dad!)

Oh.  One thing I forgot.  About six weeks ago, dad called from Verizon. He's due for an upgrade on his (flip) phone.  He called me and said "tell them what I want".  I said "I don't know what you want dad." He said "THIS ONE."  Um.  I can't see it dad. Im not there.  Then after multiple discussions with the clerk, it was decided that we would wait until I got there "in the spring" to pick one out.  Not knowing that I would be there a week later. So anyway, that was one of the last things we did.  Took him to Verizon to pick out a new phone.  He went right up to the one he wanted.  An IPhone. UGH.
I think its an iPhone 7.  Whatever the newest one is.  And you know what.  I bought it.  I took away his house, I took away his car, and I felt a little guilty.  So I bought him a new toy.  I told him he had two weeks - he had to be able to answer the phone and make phone calls.  I left him handwritten instructions on how to do both.  So far, he's done a pretty good job.  And my cousin called today and said "I Face Timed your dad and he answered!"  She said he looked good and looked happy - and then he started pushing buttons - he must have muted it because she couldn't hear him.  But he's doing ok with it.  

Who woulda thunk…my 84 (almost 85) year old dad with an iPhone.  Not me.  Melissa would love it!

***

Got home on Friday.  Exhausted.  Now I have to get MY house in order.  Pay bills.  Just get reacclimated to Ohio.  And it's weather.  Yuk.  But it's good to be home.

Got home in time to attend the Fairmont Girls Basketball Banquet.  So proud of Lindsay - after tearing her ACL the first game of the season, she hung on with the team the entire season.  She was an inspiration - it was evident by the comments by her coaches and teammates.  She earned The Coaches Award.  Probably the most prestiges award given.  

We are so proud of you Lindsay!  Melissa would be too - I remember going to see you play when you were in grade school - Melissa and I both went - she was really impressed with your basketball skills THEN.  She would be so proud of you NOW.  

Fourth year in a row we had our picture with Lindsay as District Champs!

Seniors



Alyssa (will be playing in college) Lindsay, and Shea (will be playing for High Point, NC)


Senior DeChelle Roe was awarded the Melissa Fortener McLaughlin B POSITIVE Spirit Award.
DeChelle faced a lot of adversity, not just in basketball, but all her life, and faced it with a positive attitude.  She's going to Wright State next year.  Great choice for Melissa's award!

Congratulations DeChelle!


***

Busy week back.  Now I'm celebrating the birthdays I missed - 

Happy Birthday Jennifer!

Happy Birthday Roxy!

Happy Birthday Carol!

***

So much to post - I should do this once a week instead of once every two months…

Forgot to mention that Melissa's friend Stacy has enrolled us in the

FORT PICTURE OF THE MONTH CLUB.

We got our first letter with photos/captions/stories in January.  Second one in February.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  And again…

Melissa, you chose some AWESOME friends.  
They remember you to us.  Nothing makes us happier.  

Love you miss you EVERY SINGLE DAY Melissa.


***

It's so good to be home….






















Tuesday, February 17, 2015

…and the saga continues….

Finally found a carpeted area to sleep around 1 a.m.  Updated the blog with my rant about Delta.  Kind of slept.  A little achy.

The end of the last post I tried to B POSITIVE by remembering what Melissa always said…No matter how bad you have it, there is always someone who would love to be in your shoes.  That was about the time the young woman with the baby walked by, trying to get the baby to sleep. On the floor.

Woke up this morning and a young woman was sitting across from me.  We made eye contact and I said "This is crazy."

She asked where we were traveling from and to.  Said we had a two hour delay, then missed our connection.  She is on her way to Canada from South Africa.  She had a 17 hour delay.  Twice.  Her flight  from South Africa had to make an emergency stop in San Juan due to an emergency medical issue.  (and I'm complaining about a two hour delay…ok, add the time in the airport, it's a little more than that)…

As soon as she said she had a 17 hour delay, I thought of Melissa.  Just happen to have a few of Melissa's cards so I gave her one, and of course told her about Melissa.

She was in South Africa to visit her boyfriend.  Her boyfriend's sister died two years ago, suddenly. She was his only sibling.  We had a long discussion about the loss of a child, how his parents are dealing with it, how he is dealing with it, how it is affecting her.  Interesting conversation for 4:30 in the morning.  Of course I shared my name too and asked her to share my name with her boyfriends mom.  Her name is Aliki.  Just like the children's author.  Beautiful young woman.

God (and Melissa) seems to put me in the path of people who have walked my path…or in this case, in the path of someone who could use the perspective of another parent who has lost a child.  I hope I helped her understand why her boyfriends parents talk about their daughter all the time…even after two years.  I told her it's been six years since Melissa died, and I am trying to focus on her life, not her death.  And of course I will talk about Melissa whenever I get the chance.

Made another friend this morning.  That's a good way to start this new day.

Now on to the next challenge.  Convincing my dad to agree to assisted living.

More later.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Pam & Donna's Excellent Adventure

Ok. I wasn't going to post anything about dad until we got there to see how he's doing…but I am SO frustrated right now.   I need to right this while everything is fresh….

Dad has not had a good couple of weeks.  In and out of the hospital twice, now in rehab.  So I decided to visit, and possibly bring him home.  So I needed someone to go with me, and Donna wanted to go. (I needed someone to help me take care of dad on the way home).  Not sure that is happening now - but this is about our trip.

Waited to make reservations to see if he was going home, rehab, or what.  Last week decided to wait until this week.  Good fares today. (well, better than last week).  Didn't know a snowstorm was going to hit the south, from Atlanta to Ohio.

Left home around 4 for a 6pm flight.  I thought there would probably be a delay because of the weather.  One hour delay turned into a two hour delay.  got out of Dayton around 8:30.  Flight was very bumpy (pilot actually said 180mph winds were hitting the right side of the plane-Jet Stream).  Kind of scary.  When we were about 60 miles from Atlanta, said we couldn't land because of bad weather.  Circled multiple times before we could land.

Forgot to say that in Dayton, the clerk at check in booked our flight for Tuesday morning just in case we missed our connection.  That was the nicest thing Delta did all night.  In fact, they were pretty accommodating in Dayton.   The clerk also said they changed our flight to Atlanta as our final destination, and to "pick up your bags at baggage claim when you get there.  Go to the desk to get a voucher for a hotel."

Ok. So we get a free hotel if we miss our connection. (only because our flight was delayed because of mechanical problems.  No comps if delays are weather related).

So we finally land in Atlanta, rush to get to Customer Service desk for Delta, only to find about 100 people ahead of us.  After waiting about 10 minutes, the girl who seemed to be in charged shouted "CAN I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE. WE HAVE NO MORE HOTELS AVAILABLE. SORRY.  YOU CAN FIND YOUR OWN HOTEL OR STAY IN THE AIRPORT."

That's it.  The end.  We caused this problem, now go find your own place to stay.

So now we have to go get our luggage, which in the Atlanta airport is about a mile from your gate.  WE get there and our wait for about 45 minutes, and our luggage never shows up.  So we go wait in ANOTHER line - The missing luggage line.  Only to be told by the gentleman there, who scanned our luggage receipt- your luggage is going to Melbourne tomorrow.  "NO.  They told us in Dayton to pick it up at baggage claim."  "NO.  It is not showing up here. It will go to Melbourne tomorrow."  There were several other people whose luggage didn't show up either.  They were checking other carousels.  After talking to the luggage guy, we decided to go back to check if our luggage ever came out…just to find more luggage coming out of the carousel…OUR luggage.  SOAKING WET.  Evidently they took it off the plane and left it on the tarmac.  In the pouring rain.  Donna's checked bag was a duffle bag.  EVERYTHING in her back is soaking wet.

From there, we finally found a desk for DELTA that was open.  I went up and asked what we were supposed to do.  Where are we supposed to sleep.  "Well. We can get you a hotel, but its not very nice. It's about 15 minutes from here. "  Well, I'd rather sleep on the airport floor than some seedy hotel.  At least there's airport security riding around.  And about 100 other people sleeping on the floor.

Last year we flew SOUTHWEST when we went on our cruise.  We got bumped from our flight (twice) and got vouchers for being bumped.  That's how you keep customers.  When something happens (like a mechanical problem)…you compensate your customers SOMEHOW.  You don't say.  SORRY.  Your problem.

I will NEVER fly DELTA again.  No vouchers for food (everything's closed anyway), no vouchers for future travel (that would at least get me to fly Delta again, and MAYBE consider flying with them again) and a promise of a hotel, only to be sleeping on the floor.

They did say we could check our bags at 4:30… A.M.  I guess that was there way of appeasing us.

But you know what…know matter how bad you have it, there is always someone who would love to be in your shoes…

A mom with a baby just walked by me, trying to get her baby to sleep (looks like about a year old).  At least I don't have a baby to take care of too.

Delta, you should be ashamed of your customer service.  OR LACK OF.

Ok.  Im done.  80 degrees and sunshine should help tomorrow… I mean today.  It's after midnight.

 This reminds me of a trip I had with Melissa, Sue and Matthew a few years back.  Donny called it "Pam and Sue's Excellent Adventure."  But that's a story for another day…

Good night.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Caregiving

Before I get into the excitement of February, I thought I'd start off with a picture that was given to us recently.  Something that made ME smile.


Was she adorable or what?  I love this picture of Melissa.  It was at some family get together, might have been Thanksgiving at the Rado's.  Not sure, but I love pigtails and that smile.  She didn't change much over the years, did she?

***


 January is always a difficult month, especially the first week.   After the anniversary and Melissa's birthday, I try to get back into some kind of routine - basically going to basketball games.
Something to get me out of the house.

I thought it was March that was supposed to "come in like a lion and go out like a lamb" or just the opposite.

This year it's February.

If you have had the opportunity to be a caregiver to someone you love, or kind enough to be a caregiver to a friend, I want you to know how much I appreciate you.

Because in the last ten years, I was blessed to be the caregiver for Melissa (along with her husband John) and in the last few years for my dad.    I appreciate you because I have walked in your shoes.

It was time to post again (most of the time for my own sanity), and January ended up being a pretty peaceful, laid back month.  Not a whole lot to write about.  February is looking to be a lot more exciting.

We have a good friend that lives down the street, Bruce.  He just turned 92.  Great guy- WWII pilot who tells a great story of his days in the service  We could sit and listen to him for hours.  His wife, Ruth, was like a mom to me.  The last few years of her life we had coffee every Saturday morning at McDonalds.  We were friends for over 30 years.  Ruth died of breast cancer two years after Melissa.
Anyway, whenever Donny and I take a walk, we always stop in to visit Bruce.  He has one son, who lives in town and is his primary caregiver, but his neighbors and Donny and I also check in on him.
He had a heart attack Wednesday night and is in the hospital.

Me and Ruth @ Donut Man - late '80s


While I am not his primary caregiver, we love Bruce.  He and Donny have gotten pretty close.  And he calls me "his gal".  We are really worried about him,  but haven't had any updates.  We were going to stop to see him at the hospital last night, but were taking Donny's mom out for dinner for her birthday and got a late start-so didn't get a chance to stop yesterday.

Me & Bruce


Had a nice dinner at a local Hungarian Bistro (not much traditional Hungarian food though - a little disappointed) and a nice visit with Roz for her birthday.


When we got home, my nephew Matthew stopped by to pay his rent.  I was telling him my dad's most recent escapades…last weekend he was throwing up-just didn't feel good.  Thought maybe he had the flu.  He doesn't normally have someone there (home health care) on Sundays, but he asked if I could get someone to come over.  Fortunately, one of the women that is with him during the week was able to help him out.  I talked to her the next morning and she said "I told him to take his blood pressure when I got there.  It was 210/98."  UGH.  Can't understand why they didn't call 911…I'm guessing because he said "I'll be fine. I'll just lay down".   The next morning it was still high, so I was able to get in touch with the home health nurse and get her to come back in.  

So he made it a week without too many problems.  Except one.  This is not something that I really want to share, but I will because I'm betting that there is someone else who is going through the exact same thing.  Something that is not easy to deal with.  Getting a nurse or the paramedics or adult day care is EASY.  Telling someone they need a shower is not.  For the second time in a couple of months I received a call from his friends at the VFW.  He was starting to offend people.  With his smell.  So for the second time, I have the job of telling him that he needs to take a shower.  Not an easy task when you are doing this over the phone from a thousand miles away.  My dad is 84 years old.  And German. A stubborn German.  His opinion is "I don't do anything.  I don't sweat.  I don't NEED a shower."
What he fails to realize is that sweating is not the only reason you take a shower.  He has arthritis in his shoulders and it is very painful.  He has a hard time taking off his shoes and socks and getting shirts over his head (yes, I bought him several button down shirts) He likes t shirts.  So I get that it is painful for him to get in and out of the shower.  And I have offered to get him an aide once a week.  That was a mistake - he yelled at me and told me not to do anything until I asked him first….

Ahhhhh…the joys of being a caregiver.

And what do you know…and hour after I called him, he called me back. 
 "I just got out of the shower!"  
"GREAT!  Did you use soap?"
"Yep. Shampoo AND a fragrance soap."
"What about your clothes?"
"Carmen is washing them."
"That's great dad.  Your friends at the VFW won't recognize you!"
"I think I'll start taking more showers."

Two hours later, I got another phone call from him.  This time he was at the Verizon store.  He knows that he can get a new phone every two years.  So he is at the Verizon store picking out a new phone.  I asked him what kind of phone he wanted to get.  He said "I think its called an I Phone".  UGH.  So I proceeded to give him the list of why he didn't need an I Phone.  
"Dad.  You use a phone to make phone calls.  That's it.  You don't text, use the internet, take pictures, send email…"
"But I can get music on it."
"Dad. You will never listen to music on your phone."
"I like the way I can touch the screen."
"How much will this cost you?"
"99cents.  Plus $35 (activation fee).  And $20 more a month."
"Why don't you wait until I come down and I'll show you mine.  Then you can decide if you would use it.?
(In this conversation, the phone is handed back and forth from dad to the sales person, oh, about 7 times.  She agrees with me that a smart phone is not the right phone for my dad.  She also says that the flip phone that he has is better than the new ones.  So if he Upgraded, it would really be a downgrade.)

Then I ask the clerk if he gets one and doesn't like it, can he return it?  Yes, if he returns it within 14 days, then there is a $35 restocking fee.  REALLY?????  Don't get me started on Verizon ripping people off.  That's a story for another day.

Finally, the clerk says to dad "having a smart phone is like having a computer in your pocket."

So I ask him "Dad, do you really want to walk around with a computer in your pocket?"

"Yes."

Then he said "Im just going to get what I want."

"Then why did you call me?"

"Well, will YOU tell her what I want?"

OH. MY. GOD.

"I don't know what you want dad."

"This one."

"I can't see it dad. I'm not there."

"Alright.  I'll just wait til you get here."

Arrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhh…..

Whew.

So happy we worked that out.  Fast forward to the next day.  Thursday.  Last night. Matthew is here and I'm telling him about the last two weeks with dad.  My phone rings.  It's BRETT-Dad's Friend.
Who I haven't heard from since dad fell in the driveway and had to go to the hospital last summer.

"Hello?"

"Pam, It's Brett.  Your dad fell in the driveway again.  I can't go over there."

"Thanks for calling".

Here we go again.



Fortunately, I have Melbourne Fire and Rescue in my phone, because even though dad has a Life Alert  button, he doesn't use it.  He calls Brett first.  This all happened around 9:30.  I didn't know where he was transported (dispatch wouldn't tell me because of HIPPA laws) I had to call the two hospitals in Melbourne to figure out where he was.  Finally talked to the medics, then the nurse.  He was throwing up and dizzy again.  They admitted him and did some bloodwork, CT Scan and he is waiting to hear from the Cardiologist.  I have one of his caregivers from Home Instead staying with him at the hospital today.  And it looks like some major changes are coming for my dad in the next few weeks.

And you know what?  I wouldn't have it any other way.  I love my dad so much and I worry about him and I want to take care of him.  Stress and all.  

So the purpose of this blog is to remind myself that I AM NOT ALONE in this caregiving adventure. I have several friends who take care of their parents also…one whose mom lives close by.  She doesn't drive, but they pick her up every day and have her over for dinner.  They take her to appointments, to church, wherever she needs to go.  Every day.  I talk to my dad every day, but I don't get to see him every day. I would rather be there with him than sending a caregiver.  I am the caregiver.  I have another friend whose mom just passed away and her dad had a stroke a few days after the service.  She's taking care of her dad too.  We are all in this together.  We can help each other get through the stressful days, and remind ourselves that when they are gone, we will miss having them around…good and bad.

Melissa always said "No matter how bad you have it, there is always someone who would love to be in your shoes." I have two good friends from high school who have cancer and are going through treatments - one is having a 17 hour surgery next week, the other prays to be able to get her chemo treatments on time.  I think about that a lot when I am overwhelmed, and I sit back and realize that I can do this.  I am not alone.  I have Donny.  Nick & Mere.  My extended family. Good friends. And this blog…to vent when I need to vent.

Thanks Dad, for giving me a purpose.  I love you more than you know. 

***

There were some good things in the last couple of weeks too, believe it or not.  Melissa's good friend from high school, Andy Aracri, was inducted into Fairmont's Athletic Hall of Fame - she would be so proud of him!

Me, Andy, Melissa after the Miami/Akron game

Melissa & Andy

Andy at Hall of Fame introductions


Fairmont played at Northmont last week.  It was their "Coaches vs. Cancer" game. They asked me to write something about cancer or Melissa.  Betcha can't guess what I wrote about…then I got to read it to the crowd.  Easiest thing for me to do…talk about my girl.  

My cousin Lindsay plays for Fairmont. Tore her ACL the first game of the season-her senior year. She continues to go to practices, sits on the bench at every game and cheers on her team.  With a smile.  They honored her at the game last week by wearing t shirts with her name/number.  The whole team and the coaches!  She's pretty amazing.  (just like someone else I know). Melissa would be so proud of her!  Lindsay is on the far right in the picture.

Donny had a day off a couple of weeks ago and was going through some pictures - found some good ones…

This was taken after the OU/Miami game.  Wish I could name everyone in the picture. Melissa is on the bottom row, second from the left.

After the game.  Isn't she beautiful! 

This was on one of our houseboat weekends.  We had two houseboats, each one had to come up with a 
team name - ours was Houseboat Cafe (like Hard Rock Cafe). Friend Dave found these old uniforms that were going to be thrown away - they were our team uniforms.  

A little shaving cream fight...

Donny with his first car.  Black convertible Chevy.  Not sure what year it was, but I think it was probably his favorite car.  Wishes he still had it.

My Grandma & Grandpa were married in 1916.  They went to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon.  On the Canadian side, there was a cable car that went over a whirlpool on the Niagara River.  It was brand new.  They needed volunteers to test it out, so Grandma and Grandpa volunteered along with another couple. They are the couple on the right.

Me and Donny on the new and improved Whirlpool Cable Car. We visited when Nick played for Akron @ Buffalo.

Workers on the Whirlpool Cable Car in 1916.


And of course, I have to end with Andrew and Max.  Melissa would have it no other way…

First a funny story (I think).  I took Andrew to his speech class the other day.  On the way home, I asked him how it went.  

"Good.  I made a new friend.  His name is Billy.  He's in first grade, but he's really small."

I said "well, aren't you the tallest in your class?"

"Yes. I'm the tallest in first grade.  I'm always in the back row."

So I proceed to tell him that when I was in high school, I was a cheerleader.  I was always the biggest too - I was always on the bottom of a pyramid.  (and of course I explained how to make a pyramid).

He said "That surprises me Pamma, because you're so small now!"

Andrew is 6 - how does a 6 year old come up with that concept?  What is he comparing me to?

I love having conversations with Andrew & Max.  It's just like having a conversation with Melissa when she was little.  Andrew talks as much as she did when she was little.  (although he does have Nick's personality too - a very sensitive side!)  Max is like Melissa too - nothing bothers him - things just roll off his back.  

And here they are - growing up…


***
Another Dream!

This one is interesting.  I love interpreting my dreams…I was going somewhere - on some type of transportation - a plane or a train.  I went from one room to another, and when I walked in the room, a little boy came up to me. He was about 4-5 years old.  He looked up at me and said "Mommy!" When I looked down at him, I said "Did you think I look like your mommy?" Then he said "Pamma!" I picked him up and looked in his eyes (one was blue and one was brown) and I said "I know who you are…"  In the dream, I thought he was Melissa in a child's body.  When I woke up and was telling Donny my dream, I realized it wasn't Melissa…it was JP.  He thought I was his mommy, (because I look like her), but when I looked at him, he realized I was his grandma!  He looked a little like Andrew & Max. John Patrick (J.P.) would have been 11 in October.  It's the first dream I've had about him. Hopefully not the last...


Gotta end with this story. It is definitely Melissa.  Last night, in the middle of all the phone calls with the nurses at the hospital and my dad, Donny comes into the room and says "I lost my hearing aide."

Of course, that was the LEAST of my problems.  I did help him look for a minute, and he was pretty good about saying it wasn't that important (they're only $1000), I just couldn't worry about that too.

So he gets up today and goes into work early.  Every day at lunch time he takes a walk in the basement of his building.  It's about 1/4 mile around the building.  He remembers taking the hearing aide out, putting it in his shirt pocket, then pulling out the iPod.  Thought that when he pulled the iPod out, the hearing aide fell out.  As soon as he gets there, he goes to the basement and walks every inch - not there.  A little later, he was at his desk, and something (or somebody) told him to go back and look again.  As he was walking around, he thought "what if someone found it and picked it up and put it on the ledge so no one would step on it."  At that VERY moment, he looked up, and there it was.

Coincidence?  We don't believe in coincidences any more.  It was Melissa, helping her dad again. She comes through so strong so many times, I have to believe she'll come through when I see the L.I. medium in a month.  

Thanks Melissa, for coming through AGAIN!

Love you and miss you pretty girl!