I had the second of four Thanksgiving dinners this evening. My husband and I went to the personal care home where my Father lives to enjoy a meal prepared for all the residents, families and caregivers.
My Father has lived at this home since June. I finally met the owner in person, although we have had several phone conversations. I also met some other folks I've heard about, like George, who does the grocery shopping and usually takes along with him Chester, another of the gentleman who lives at the home.
My Dad was in eating mode. My stepmom and I took turns placing forkfuls of food into his mouth, wiping his mouth and nose and bringing the water glass to his lips. He seemed really hunched over tonight, but maybe that was just my imagination.
The ladies who care for my Dad are from the Philippines. That means we got to escape turkey and dressing tonight and enjoy some of their authentic cooking: chicken and thin noodles, pork and potatoes, beef stew, egg rolls, rice and beans and some interesting desserts whose names I could not understand.
I had brought my camera with me. I have not taken a photo of my Dad in several years. I was having trouble working up the courage to take it out of my purse; trying not to lose my composure. I suppose it was the realization of why I felt it necessary to take a photo with him; that there may not be too many more opportunities; combined with the dread of seeing the irrefutable proof of the shape he is in.
Most of the time I do OK, but every so often, like tonight, I experience those moments of, "So this is what it's come to..."
I had to squat down to get my face near his. He smiled rather nicely, which surprised me, and was able to lift his head enough to where it was visible in the photo. (He always liked having his picture taken; always liked being the center of attention.)
My stepmom and I made small talk about his condition. Doesn't he look good? Hasn't his face filled out? Isn't his hair nice? Don't they keep him well groomed and clean and happy? We talked a little about his meds and, for some reason, I felt the need to take care of her feelings by assuring her, oh sure, he doesn't know me anymore now that he's on that new med, but I'm sure he was just on the brink of that anyway. (I don't really know that to be a fact, but ... what difference does it really make at this point?)
I also had my husband take a photo of Chester and I. Chester is pretty sweet on me (but then I've noticed he's a real lady's man ... sweet on anything in a skirt). When I stood close and he put his arm around me, he joked, "Your husband's not going to shoot me, is he?" I had him take a second photo with me planting a kiss on Chester's cheek. I promised him I'd bring a print of them both the next time I came to visit and told the caregiver, "Now he can tell everyone I'm his girlfriend." (He usually talks about Kathy, his girlfriend from WWII who wrote him every single day while he was in the service, but later married movie star John Doucette; and yes, I've heard that story several times, including the part about the bracelet he wears that bears the inscription, "Love always, Kathy.")
Last year, I brought my Dad to my house briefly for Thanksgiving, but he is past his traveling days at this point. Next year, I wonder if he'll even be sitting up at all. I wonder what I'll be looking at as I say to myself, "So this is what it's come to..."