Monday, October 13, 2008

My Father's Passing

My dad passed away on Saturday night. He suffered (and my mother right along with him) for over 10 years with Alzheimer's Disease. Even as his brain grew increasingly foggy, Dad noticed Mom. He would smile and call her name and when language escaped him, his eyes would twinkle as she entered the room or he heard her voice.

A family friend emailed me to say "Who didn't like Lowell." He was that kind of man. He still had an infectious laugh even through this year. A good joke (or even a bad joke) brought gales of full-body laughter. Never have I met a grown man who's laugh would gather up everyone else in its pure joy. He would scrunch up his eyes, jiggle his tummy, and slap his knee if he truly wanted to show delight.

Dad was keenly smart, something that frustrated me and my siblings while we were growing up. He often fell asleep with a dictionary on his chest. He filled our vocabulary with words like unctuous, myrmidon, and verisimilitude. "Look it up" he would say to our great consternation. He taught us to handle checkbooks at an early age. He worked like a plough horse among the fancy warm-bloods and pedigreed horses in our barns, fixing fences, stringing hot-wire and shoveling horse poop from their paddocks. Then he would work at his consulting business while classical music sang in his office.

I have great memories of Dad sitting in the living room with some fabulous piece of music playing on the giant 3 foot speakers we hoisted up the tall redwood lined walls. He would close his eyes and direct an imaginary symphony, enraptured by the complex genius that created such beauty. His gifted mind could truly appreciate the intricate musical score -- a talent he passed on to my sister, Nicole.

When I was very young, he would rough-house with the four of us. We would sit behind him and pull his hair while he pretended it didn't hurt. "Pull harder", "ah, refreshing." We could never hurt him. Our family constantly ribbed him for his gargantuan hands and the generous circumference of his head. Mom loves to tell of a trip to Mexico where every street vendor in town rushed to find a hat for the Gringo with the "grande cabezza."

We had fabulous opportunities because of my dad. We had crazy times too but the strength of our family's connection never wavered. Dad could be counted on. Mom could be counted on. Together they balanced our lives like the giant oaks that grew on our farm. From their co-joined trunk sprouted many, many branches. They shot out in different directions, some went one way and then jutted back another seeking brighter sunshine. All of them thrived and dropped acorns that spawned new trees.
That amazing tree has lost half its truck, damaged by the slow choking of Alzheimer's disease. Yet, like those incredible trees that still manage to harbor abundant life when half their trunk is gone, our branches continue to grow, feeding on the remaining cambium, protected by the bark and still feeling life and love from our mother and the memories of our father.

May your memories all be together now, Dad, and may the music you hear be even more brilliant than you ever thought possible.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Elliott's Seventh Birthday and Other Photos

Beth continues to do well and is eating more now that she has been on Perictin (Antihistamine Stimulates Appetite ). I have been experimenting to see if she avoids eating when not on the meds. Sure enough, if it has been over 4 hours since her last dose, she will fight me when I ask her to eat lunch/dinner. We feel a huge relief when she sits in her high chair without argument and actually consumes something more than dried blueberries and cocoa bumpers.

Elliott turned 7 last week. We had a wild party at the local Bouncy place, Bounceopolis. I could not take many photos because it was absolute chaos for 90 minutes. There were 26 kids launching themselves into the air, crashing into each other and generally beating the heck out of each other. I had to shadow Beth everywhere to keep her from getting squished. There was no way to keep her in the "kiddie" room where she would have been safer. Noooo. It is 4 days past the party and my arms still ache.

This photo shows Elliott at home with his birthday cake that I made (can't you tell it is a bear??). The pig is part of a reading program conceived by his teacher. He and 5 other animals circulate around the classroom with related books. The kids get to take one animal home and read all the books overnight. Then they record their day in a journal. We are lucky the pig didn't get chocolate frosting all over him.
The two photos of Beth were taken by my sister-in-law, Cathie. Again, her amazing photographic talent shines through. I'm so envious of her skill but appreciate that she captures these priceless images.

On the sad side, my father who has suffered with Alzheimer's Disease for over 10 years is having a very difficult time. These photos by Cathie were taken at an Alzheimer's fundraising walk last Saturday. Thousands of people rallied at the Capitol and raised funds for research and caregiver support. My father's health seemed to take a step backwards with every stride we made in his honor. He is still with us but we fear it will not be for long.