Oh how I was tempted to add a question mark to the end of that title hovering above! Sometimes a question mark can become a handy hedge against false assumptions or even tempting the fates of good fortune; it’s sort of a gramatical way for me to knock on wood.
Can Dad really be the comeback kid? Amazingly, the last two Tuesdays offer a positive report. Last week we witnessed a spark of good news when we found Dad had regained the five pounds lost in his most recent health scare. And for the first time since coming out of the hospital eight weeks ago, Dad chose to stay in his recliner at the end of our visit rather than asking us — with a point of his finger — to be tucked into bed at 5 pm in the afternoon. Yes. Dad is coming closer to Dad’s old diminished self. And as I shake my head to clear the fog, I have only to go back to the series of posts I’ve written on Daddy to see that it was only August when I wondered if it was ready to bring in Hospice.
So now I find myself wondering whether Dad’s comeback has anything to do with Jon’s good idea to get Dad an IPOD Shuffle two weeks ago. Dad has always been a lover of music. And Dad’s new IPOD allows him to listen to seventy of his favorite tunes — mostly vintage Frank Sinatra — any old time he wants to. And from the reports we received from nursing home personnel, it appears Dad wants to quite frequently, because Dad’s ears have grown sore from plugging in to get his daily dose of Frank.
The most amazing proof of Dad’s recovery came last Sunday when my sister Christi was cornered by Nurse Patty’s question: “Did you or other family members bring in food for your father to eat?” Dad has been limited to receiving food by feeding tube — in order to minimize the risk of aspiration — since returning from the hospital. And as far as we knew, Dad had no interest in eating. But after Christi assured Pattty that we had not, Patty reported catching Daddy eating some applesauce, which helped remind Christi of my applesauce purchases of late June. By my count, twelve servings were left two weeks ago. I ran across them when searching for Dad’s lost dentures; and rather them packing the containers up, I opted to leave them in the hope that Dad would one day enjoy the taste of food again. Apparently, that day arrived without anyone’s knowledge. Because the drawer that held 12 half-cup individual servings is now mysteriously empty.
But wait. There’s more. The worst of Dad’s food-by-mouth crimes came when nursing home personnel caught Daddy with his hand in the dining hall popcorn machine, scooping up a handful of freshly popped corn. Not only did Dad break nursing home law to serve himself, but Dad has been unable to eat solids without choking since late May; and it will be at least a few more weeks until Dad’s lost dentures are replaced so that Dad will have the upper teeth he needs to chew solids. What was Dad thinking? With Dad’s inability to talk, we’ll never know for sure. But this I know: When we asked Dad about the popcorn incident yesterday, Dad just sheepishly grinned. It seems Dad is endearingly proud of himself.
And we’re proud of Daddy too. Sometimes one just has to take life into their own hands. And Christi, Jon and I all regard Dad’s sneeking and thieving of food as life itself. So with Dad finally showing us his caught red-handed hand — that he can survive food consumption by mouth — I spoke with rehab yesteray about opportunities for Dad to safely consume food while working on his swallowing exercises.
That life can be both fragile and strong at the same time is one of life’s mysterious truths. Which Daddy will we find next Tuesday? Or even today? Either way, Daddy’s keeps us dancing as we all shuffle to meet Dad’s changing needs. And I ask — what better music to dance by than that of ‘ol blue eyes himself? And what better song than “That’s Life” to summarize Dad’s year so far? Join me on the dance floor as we allow Frank to take us out…will you? Oh, look. The spotlight is on Dad.