In 1991, my dad and I went to visit my maternal ninety-eight- year-old grandmother at her nursing home. For the previous six years, Grammy lived with my mom and dad, but her health was deteriorating, and my mother could no longer physically lift her. At that time, home care was unheard of.
As my crippled father (from a debilitating stroke he endured seven years earlier) made his way up the ramp to the creepy “facility of doom and gloom,” he noticeably began to shake. Fearful he was about to fall over, I grabbed his arm and asked, “Are you OK?”
Looking at me with moist tears in his eyes, he whispered, “Please don’t let this ever happen to me.”
For as long as I can remember, my parents constantly said to their four children, “I don’t ever want to be a burden. Just put me in a home.” Now the real moment of truth was told. This was his biggest fear for his future.
Hugging him tightly, I made a vow to both of us. “Dad, I promise. This will never happen to you.”
Twenty years later, I’m about to fulfill my pledge.
Knowing this will be quite an undertaking, I’ve given myself a month to prepare. There are things that need to be put in place: a ramp to be built, caregivers lined up to help me while I’m at work, “daddy sitters” for when I have the rare opportunity to go out at night, preparing Jenni’s room for my new roomie and filling it with his prized possession here so it will feel like home.
People tell me I’m a saint. I tell them “No. I just made a promise – and a promise is a promise.”
Truth to tell, I’m terrified. My entire life is going to change. No longer will I be free to roam at will. He can’t be left by himself, so there will schedules to juggle, diapers to change, food to be pureed and hand fed, and an oxygen tank constantly filled.
But what I do know is I’ll also be given a fabulous gift. My father is my only connection to my history – the stories of my youth, his childhood, and my ancestry. He is the last remaining historian to a long line of Irish immigrants who suffered greatly to give their children a better future. Like his parents and grandparents before him, John Madden’s goal was to make the lives of his children spiritual and productive. Both would then lead to a wonderful life.
As I prepared for his “homecoming,” I will blog about the preparation, the fears, joys, and anticipation. And once he’s here, this precious life with my daddy will be chronicled so everyone can share in the mystery and joy of our aging parents. I invite you to come along for the journey.