The sports columnist Mark Purdy wrote his last column in the Mercury News last Sunday. I knew his wife when she taught at Saint John Vianney Parish School, I believe they are both now retired, but I like his by line “Let me tell you a story.” On the first week of vacation I drove south to visit my brother in Bermuda Dunes and then we drove to Placentia to visit our dad. For over a year and a half dad resides in a memory care facility as some of you may know. We approached the locked gate, pressed the buzzer, a friendly voice responded “Reminiscence.” We announced our dad’s name, and the door lock buzzed open. Walking in dad was sitting in the courtyard where we often find him, “Hi dad,” I said. A broad smile crossed his face as each of us greeted him, Greg, Jane and I. He recognized all of us which is good. We sat outside underneath the gazebo and listened to dad weave a tale, not directly connected with reality, but a tale that was on his mind.
I went inside the dining room and came back with three cups of water, encouraging dad to drink, to avoid a recent hazard, bladder infections. He just isn’t that thirsty these days, but we know he needs to drink water, keep taking in fluids. My brother and friend left and I played a game of cribbage with dad. Playing cribbage is my check in activity with him to see how he is doing. We went to his room, found the deck of cards, the cribbage board and set up the game in the small visiting room in his wing of the modest facility. With guidance, and gentle prompting he can still count, play his hands and more often than not beats me at the game. He has played cribbage for at least 75 years now. I am always amazed. He can’t remember yesterday, he has often told stories that are vague memories that don’t easily come back. Now, he lives in the present moment with random, different, and sometimes confusing thoughts on his mind.
I am exceedingly grateful for my sister, brother-in-law and brother who take care of him, taking him to doctor’s appointments, calming him down when he is agitated, and being with him a couple of times a week. The psalmist sums up these thoughts in Psalm 67 “May God have pity on us and his 98th birthday on November 2nd. I said, “See you later dad, I love you dad”, and hugged him goodbye until the next visit. Let us pray for our parents, for all those people who have taken care of us, and now we have the challenge of taking care of them. Blessings, Father Larry Hendel