Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Yesterday was my dad's 96th birthday.  We took him a birthday cake and some cards, the celebration following immediately on the heels of lunch.  It was a day of mixed blessings.

He ate a piece of cake, although he had turned down most of his lunch with the excuse that he didn't feel well.  He's used a similar excuse for years when served something he has decided he didn't want to eat -- doesn't like, bored with, too hard to chew, doesn't like the look of ....

He carefully "read" each birthday card, spending a great deal of time on the one from his sister, very little time on the one from Mother and me.   We wonder if he can actually see the messages on the cards, even with his glasses.

He is having more and more trouble moving around in his walker.  Before long, he will not be able to get around without a wheelchair.

He never acknowledged my mom by name.  Later she commented, "I don't think he knew who I was."  Perhaps it was deliberate, for she seldom visits and he often asks about her.  Perhaps he really doesn't recognize her.  Perhaps he just didn't think about calling her by name.

His eyes were empty, and he didn't seem to grasp the link between birthday and cake.  One day last week I asked him about birthday cake, and he commented that it was always fun to cut a birthday cake.  Maybe candles would have helped the memory.  We couldn't light candles at his care home; they set of the smoke alarms!

Conversation that includes him is impossible, for his rapidly failing memory frequently prevents him from contributing meaningfully to a conversation.  Poor hearing (although he is nowhere as hard of hearing as Mother) makes it hard for him to even follow a conversation.  His mind wanders off into its own time and place.

Soon it became clear it was time to leave.  I lowered his bed from a visiting to a sleeping position, and kissed him good-bye.  He closed his eyes and would be asleep in moments.

We give thanks for his many good years.     Give thanks for the parent-figures in your own life -- the good, the bad and the indifferent.   Sometimes we reflect their beliefs and lifestyle.  Sometimes we deliberately turn in other directions.   We are who we are because of the lessons they taught us.

Hug your children....   Don't forget to pray.

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