My Two Dads

About two weeks ago my dad fell in his garage. It’s more of a workshop than a garage, and he spends quite a bit of time out there. He’s 91. Retired. Active. Still driving. Has a girlfriend who is 97. Yup, you read that right — a sweetheart who is 97, and together, the two of them see each other almost every day.

Each day my dad gets up, drives about 2 miles down the road to Burger King. There, he gets his coffee. When he's done, he refills his cup with decaf, and heads over to his sweetheart's house, Dotti. Every morning he brings her coffee.

He's been doing this for so many years that finally Burger King has stopped charging him for his coffee(s). He walks in and sits down. The ladies get the coffees with exactly the right about of cream and sugar and deliver them to his table.

He makes no mess. He drinks his coffee and then brings one to Dotti's house. Every. Single. Day.

The girls (women) at Burger King love him and listen to him tell his stories. They really like him. He charms them, sometimes even bringing donuts for the gals.

He's been diagnosed with Dementia for several years now. It was probably about 5 years ago he was diagnosed. He was so forgetful. And it got worse.

Now he is most likely in the middle stages and I've had to step in.

The problem I am facing is learning all about the disease and seeing a man who is abhorrent, mean, angry, rageful and foul-mouthed. He's mean and rude. He's very angry and this has finally become the norm.

It's easy to deal with him asking the same questions over and over again only 5 minutes after he asked the same question earlier. I could give him different answers and he doesn't remember. Additionally, he responds to the same answer differently.

Did I give you money?
How much?
Holy Smokes!! (Chuckles) How come so much? (laughs) That's alright. You keep it.

5 minutes later.
Did I give you money?
How much?
Good! Need more? I want to give you more.
No Dad, it's fine. That's enough.

15 minutes later.
Did I give you money?
Yes, $100.

15 minutes later.
Did I give you money?
Yes. You gave me money. $100.
How much? (He can't hear very well and indicated he heard me say yes but didn't catch the amount).
Oh. OK.

5 Minutes later.
I gave you money, right?
Oh, OK. How much?
Is that enough? You want more? Here. Take more (grabs wallet).
No Dad. I'm fine. I still have all that money.
I bet you do. It's not enough. I want you to have it.
I'm fine Dad.

30 minutes later.
Did I give you money?
Oh ok good. How much?

30 minutes later.
Did I give you money?
Oh ok good. How much?
How come so much? Why did I give you so much? (Obviously not too happy.)
Me: Shaking my head, remembering how I was only going to take $50 so I could buy a few things for him (more on that in another post), and how he insisted I take $100.

I noticed earlier this year, around July and August his dementia was getting worse. He was more agitated, forgetful, slow.

Since his fall 2 weeks ago to the date, I've had to be around him more.

The fall was a blessing, and I’ll explain why later. Initially, he would not let me take him to the hospital despite the fact he could not walk, not one bit. I was on my way to his house just before he fell. So, had anything happened, I'd have arrived to see him laying there. However, he made his way into the house. He said he crawled. I knew he had not broken any bones (his hip was sore) because he could stand but could not put any weight on one of his legs. He scraped his elbow. I cleaned the elbow wound and put a band-aid on it. My son and I set up chairs so he could go to bed by holding on to the chairs since no matter what I'd said, he would not let us take him to the hospital.

The next morning I checked on him. He refused to go to the hospital. He swore at me and used the f-word. I lost my temper, not really knowing how to deal with his rage, and I yelled back. I slammed the door and left him alone.

Then I left town for a night.

Saturday I arrived back home in the evening. I had my son and his best friend. We pulled into his driveway at the same time he pulled into his garage. He was driving?!! He could not get out of the car without assistance. Then we tried to get him into the house but he could not walk. I believe he crawled out of the house to get to his car earlier that day because there was no way he could walk.

I later found out he came and got his sweetheart. She brought him a cane and that's how he could walk as they had gone to Burger King or somewhere. She said they went to Arby's (she called it Darby's - "the place where they say, You got the beef!" said Dotti.) but my dad was carrying ice cream shake and pie from Burger King when we found him. While they were having dinner, Dotti fell on the way back to her car. My dad, unable to walk well, could not help her up. Two strangers picked up Dotti off the ground. They got her into their car and took her to the hospital. My dad got in his car and went home I guess. She ended up in St Lukes.

My dad, who we could not assist back into the house, got into my car. I had had enough. I was taking him to the ER, and we had to listen to him bitch and moan the whole way there. I kept telling myself what I had told my son a few days earlier: Grampa is like a little kid who doesn't know what's best for him. A kid cannot have ice cream for dinner but doesn't realize that it's not good for him to eat that. So parents have to say NO and the little kid cries. You understand that, right? My son nodded.

So it's like when we tell Molly (his little sister) that she has to eat good food for dinner and she yells No!!!! I want my cake!

Right I said.

I reminded myself of my own advice and stayed silent the whole way to the VA hospital while my dad muttered Shit. over and over again under his breath. Christ. Last time I tell you anything, he said to me, disgusted with the help I was providing him, none of us realizing that I was actually saving his life at that very moment.

It was now 10pm and I had two 11-year-old boys in the car while my dad was wheeled into the ER. I left him with the ER folks with parting words, “He's yours now.” I took the boys to Culvers. We came back at 11 to see what was going on. Nothing had changed. My dad was now in the ER in a bed charming the sox off the nurses, telling stories about how fit he used to be. It's true, he was a bodybuilder in his 50's and 60's, working out every day at the YMCA. At 80 years old he could win any push-up contest for men his age easily. He played raquette ball with men in their 30's. He was well-known and well-liked by these folks who worked out alongside him. Until recently, he worked out daily at the Y, even driving across town to get there after they closed the gym down the street from him. In our family's mind, that was a pivotal change for our dad. The Y was his home away from home and we knew how important it was for him to work out and sweat out the toxins in the sauna daily.

Nothing had happened while we were off at Culver's. It seems my dad could not rely the story of what happened to him or even the day he fell. He wasn't even sure what day it was. I begged them to keep him overnight and they were not sure they would. I was appalled. Seriously, he needs to get his hip, shoulder, and elbow checked out. He needs x-rays. He cannot walk AT ALL and you need to keep him overnight.

I left with the promise that they would call me later (good lord it was 11:30 pm!) and that there was no guarantee they would keep him the night.

That's alright, he said, annoyed. I'll just drive myself home.

You can't, I said. I drove you here.

Oh, Christ. Why'd you do that? Sheesh.

He paused. I'll just take a cab home.

You can't. You don't have any money.

Christ! Well, what'd I do with it?

I have it. You just stay here. I will take you home.

And with that, I left.

I received one call around 1 am from a doctor asking ALL THE SAME QUESTIONS I HAD ANSWERED IN THE ER. He promised he'd call me back.

I went to sleep and never heard from the hospital again that night.

To be continued...