The rest of the story

So, I alluded to there being a “rest of the story” in my last post, so I don’t want to keep all two of my readers hanging.

The rest of the story is that Dad’s fears about taking the trip were not unfounded. After arriving at Liz’s house, Dad fell almost immediately on the one step down into the living room. He simply didn’t see it, missed it, and fell into a wire basket full of magazines. Ben was right there watching him, as he is fascinated by everything Grandpa Bill does, and couldn’t understand why he had fallen or that it was an accident. Dad tore a fingernail and banged up an elbow. Since he takes blood thinners, he bleeds easily, so there was blood and Band Aids were provided. Dad wasn’t hurt badly, but his pride was hurt, and he soon disappeared into the guest room for a long overdue nap. To his credit, he rallied and enjoyed the cocktail hour sitting out on the patio, watching his great-grandsons run around the backyard and talking politics with Liz’s husband, nicknamed “The Emperor Justinian,” whom Dad later declared a “hell of a nice kid.” So, the evening ended well with no further mishaps; everyone slept through the night, except me–I stayed awake worrying about Dad getting up in the middle of the night to smoke outside, which would involve navigating several sets of steps. In the morning, Dad was chomping at the bit to get going for home, which was no surprise. I remember my mother-in-law being that way whenever she would come from Iowa to visit us–drive five hours to get there, spend the night, and be anxious to head home first thing in the morning. At the time I didn’t understand that for the elderly, being away from home can be extremely stressful, and in Dad’s case, dangerous, as it turns out.

We ate a simple breakfast, and Dad went out the front door to sit on the bench and have a smoke before getting in the car. Son-of-a-gun if he didn’t miss the step from the front stoop down to the sidewalk and fall down again. This time he fell on both knees and  onto concrete. More blood, more embarrassment, more ministrations with Band Aids–to the knees this time. Finally, we got Grandpa Bill and his two great-grandsons, Ben and Jamie, situated on the bench on front of the house for a final photo, said our good-byes and hit the road.

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Dad and I didn’t talk much on the way home. He muttered several times about being “a clumsy old fart,” and was clearly disgusted with himself and embarrassed. There wasn’t much I could say to make him feel better, so we were both relieved when I delivered him home in one piece, minus a little skin. The next day he was pretty stiff and sore, but we agreed that it had been a successful trip, and we were both glad we had undertaken it. Again, I felt relieved and that I had helped him fulfill a wish that he had been harboring for a long time.

Now, two months later, I realize that the reason Dad finally agreed to take the trip in July is because his health is failing and he knew it might be his last chance. His feet and ankles are so swollen now that most days that he can hardly get his shoes on, and he shuffles around in his slippers. His balance is terrible, just standing up from his chair makes him huff and puff, and where before he had very little “umph,” now his umph has completely deserted him. I’m worried about how he will make it through the winter in northern Wisconsin all on his own, but I think he’s not at all sure he will even see the winter. As Dad would say, “It’s hell to get old and have the shits besides.” But, he has his affairs in order, and he’s adamant about how he wants my sibs and me to continue to see to Mom’s care and not fight over their stuff. Even though he has always said that if he couldn’t take it with him, he wasn’t going, we do our best to assure him that we will do that for him.

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Great-grandkids to the rescue

Dad hasn’t been giving me much new material lately. Most of our conversations re-hash already well-worn territory: how Mom is doing (content, but not making much sense–“about all we can hope for”), how he’s doing (anywhere from “if I were any better, I’d be sick” to not doing much due to a bad case of “the black ass”–depression in Dadspeak), what’s happening around the lake (new neighbors from Illinois were up, old neighbors had a big gang over the Fourth, mowed the lawn, made some cigarettes, didn’t go to see Mom yesterday, but going today, gotta buy some groceries and visit the poisoners, Paco rolled in dead fish, when are you coming up next?), etc.  I’m hopeful that our upcoming “cemetery tour” will lift his spirits, and provide plenty of opportunity for him to reminisce and for me to register more of his vernacular.

We did provide him recently with some “jollification,” to borrow a word from my sister Mary. My husband and I gathered at the lake with our two kids, their spouses and children for a few days of fun, northern Wisconsin style.

Some of the family

Some of the family

Dad absolutely loved seeing his three great-grandsons and found them highly entertaining, if a bit too loud at times. Of course, he has given them nicknames: Bouncing Benny (4) and his brother Jumping Jimmy (15 months) and Wild Willie (18 months).

3 Williams

The three Williams: Great-grandpa Bill, Grandson Bill “Buster”Pence, Great-grandson Willie Leazer

Four-year-old Ben especially amused him with all his activity–“busy as a one-armed paper hanger,”or more salty, “a two-peckered goat in a sheep pasture.” Ben was fascinated by Great-grandpa’s collection of meticulously built radio-controlled airplanes, which are all now moth-balled and suspended from the garage ceiling in special hanging brackets. Ben declared that he would like to fly them and was pretty sure he was up to the task, completely dismissing my admonition that it’s “very tricky.” “Why is it tricky, Grandma?” Great-grandpa Bill managed to satisfy Ben’s curiosity by taking him to the RC-flying club’s flying field to watch some of the members fly their planes. Ben loved watching the acrobatics, clapped with glee and cheered as Mr. Wally brought his plane in for a successful landing. On the other hand, when Mr. Rusty crashed his plane in the tall grass and brought it back to the staging area in three pieces, Ben couldn’t understand why he had done that, still not believing that it really is very tricky.

RC-flying field

The gang at the flying field

So, for a few days Dad had something to think about other than how bad he feels about Mom not being at home anymore, his best friend dying in June (that contributed greatly to the black ass) and life just generally not holding much allure anymore. The cemetery tour was Dad’s idea and is something he has been wanting to do for a while. He wants to pay his respects to his ancestors, visit their graves, take a nostalgia tour of the places he lived as a youngster. We had planned to do it a couple of times over the past year or so, but he reneged both times. Originally, he wanted Mom to go with us, and postponed once with the hope that she would be able to go at some point. He finally accepted that that was impossible. The second time he backed out, he said he just couldn’t go (anywhere) without Mom. I think this time we will go because he really wants to do this before he dies, and I think he is getting ready to die. Part of the cemetery tour includes another quick dose of Bouncing Benny and Jumping Jimmy, which I hope will provide Dad another respite from the black ass.