Daddy was sitting with the aides in the dining room when we arrived today. He saw us before Jon and I saw him. And while I’d like to think Daddy was watching for our arrival, that might be going a bit far. But expected or not, Daddy was all smiles, and it was good to arrive to Daddy’s big smile.
We quickly stole Daddy away from his aides, wheeling him toward the bedroom, that for the last six weeks, Daddy has shared with Larry. Larry probably knows Daddy as good as anyone these days. Paralyzed from the waist down for the last twenty years, Larry observes life from flat on his back.
About a month ago, Larry motioned me to his bedside with a whisper:“How old is your father”? “Seventy-nine.”. “Is that all?” “That’s MY age. I thought your Dad was an old man.”
Old is a relative term I’ve learning and age is only one indicator of the state of old. Today I learned that even the young-old like Larry (versus the old-old like Daddy) want to be useful, even if paralyzed from the waist down. So today, while Dad and Jon were watching Bonanza, Larry caught my attention for a bedside conferernce. And what I got was a brief of Daddy’s nocturnal wanderings. After the report was in, I found myself admitting my worry about Daddy’s wandering ways; and then confidentially, Larry whispered that he worries about Daddy too.
It seems Daddy has become Larry’s new found purpose in life. Working under cover (literally), Larry watches Daddy’s every prohibited move, everytime Daddy gets it in his demented mind to use his shaky, almost useless legs to get around. I don’t think Daddy has a clue that Larry is spying on him. And to Larry’s credit — he’s becoming a pretty good informant. He told Christi on Sunday about Daddy’s doings. And then told the nursing home staff what Daddy was up to when Daddy fell last night. And today, he was telling me about both.
Daddy couldn’t ask for a better protector. Because Larry has a handle on reality where Daddy, even in his better days, lived life in his own little dream world. Larry is paralyzed and knows it. Daddy is practically paralyzed and doesn’t know it. Larry is clear-minded where in a state of dementia, Daddy lives in a fog. Case in point: Today at 4:30, I called Christi at work to let Daddy hear her Tuesday dog report. Fifteen minutes later, just as Jon and I were getting ready to leave, Daddy stalls our departure by asking me where Christi is. My mother would have yelled at Daddy for such a silly question — Jack, don’t YOU remember, YOU just talked to Christi a few minutes ago! Yelling’s not my thing. I simply answer Dad’s question, by telling Daddy that Christi is at work — as if Daddy’s asking is the most natural thing in the world for him to do.
On our way out, Larry asks my brother to open the privacy curtain that divides Larry’s space from Daddy’s. Meanwhile, out in the hallway, I just smile. With Dad’s family out of the picture, Larry is back on the job, trying to protect Daddy from Daddy. And with Larry preferring truth to fiction, when do I warn Larry he’s taking on Mission Impossible?