Out of the Frying Pan…


Yesterday evening, when my brother-in-law, my nieces, and my nephew came over to my Dad’s house for their Pizza-and-Movie Night, it allowed me to drive home and reconnect with my family for a little bit. I found myself looking forward to the respite. Unfortunately, though, it turned out to be one of those classic “Out of the Frying Pan, into the Fire” situations. Because a crazy coincidence of circumstances meant that Marci’s Dad had just arrived to our house a few minutes before I arrived.

And as bad as things were with my Father, things were considerably worse with my Father-in-Law.

Marci had him parked in front of the TV when I arrived, but she said he was pretty weepy, saying he wanted to go home. Unfortunately, he couldn’t go home because his wife (my Mother-in-Law) was suffering from a blocked kidney and preparing to go into emergency surgery the next day. Ross has Alzheimer’s Disease, and we were actually already thinking in the direction of having him for a “Sleepover” sometime soon. We had wanted to help ease the burden on my Mother-in-Law. But her health situation shifted that “want” to a “need” very suddenly. So Marci had gone down to Richland County to pick up her Dad earlier in the afternoon, while I was in Kent with my Dad.

He actually did better than expected on the car ride back from Richland County. Marci played him some hymns, and he seemed to enjoy the music. But about three-quarters of the way to Kent, he started crying and saying he wanted to go home. Marci asked, “Home to the Farm? Or home to Jesus?” He responded by saying, “Yeah.”

His face was still tear-stained when I found him watching “News 5 Cleveland” from the arm-chair in our Family Room. Marci suggested that I should introduce myself / remind him who I was (he doesn’t seem to recognize any of us). So I greeted him. And when he looked into my eyes, he started a non-stop repetition of the phrase: “I wanna go home, I wanna go home, I wanna go home…”

I tried to distract him with suggesting a walk… raking leaves… picking up acorns… fixing the Bandaids that were coming off of his fingers… looking together at a Word Find… trying to get back to watching the news on TV… But nothing worked for long.

His crying seemed to come in waves, and he really only stopped when he tuckered himself out. When it felt appropriate, I would remind him, “We’re going to get you home as soon as we can, Ross… We just need to give Louise some time to get better… We’re taking care of you… You’re going to be OK…” Honestly, though, it seemed to work best when I just sat close and provided minimal feedback.

He refused to eat dinner, once it was prepared. Apparently, he seemed to think it would be some kind of concession to staying. So he just stood beside the Dining Room Table, crying, and he kept saying that he wanted to go home. It was relentless.

We spent most of the evening in our Family Room, watching TV. Ross’s waves of weeping seemed to get a little bit smaller and further apart as the evening wore on. But he never fully settled. The only real moment of calm happened while watching an episode of “The Incredible Dr. Pol” — which seemed to capture Ross’s attention at least a little bit — and he consented to eating a bowl of crumbled graham crackers and milk (one of his comfort foods, recommended by my Mother-in-Law). During this phase of the evening, we tried tamping down the “I wanna go home”s with more simple, more calloused “We know”s and “We hear you”s. And it kind of worked.

Until bed time.

We tried to get Ross in bed around 8:30 PM, but he resisted strenuously. He ramped up his rounds of “I wanna go home” with higher volume and faster repetition. His cheeks were covered with tears. His nose and mouth were covered with mucous. Marci and I tried to coax him towards the bed. But then he started pushing hard, trying to force his way out of the bedroom. My brain did the calculation that I was strong enough to physically overcome him. Still, we decided to let him come back downstairs to rest on the couch in our Family Room and hopefully allow him (and Marci) to catch some fitful sleep before the morning.

There was no ideal situation for the overnight. My Dad’s state of agitation made it seem unwise to leave him by himself. So I thought about bringing my Dad to sleep in the bed that Ross refused to sleep in — just in case I needed to provide back-up for Marci at some point in the night. At the same time, we worried that so much shuffling would further agitate both Dads. So ultimately, we decided that I would sleep at my parents’ house (to help my Dad in case he woke up confused) — and Marci would keep vigil with her Dad (probably in the Family Room).

It was an uneasy feeling to say good-bye to Marci, but I left around 8:45 PM and drove back over to Cottage Gate.

Fortunately, I learned this morning that Ross and Marci made it through the night. He slept an hour or two at a time. But he was still unsettled enough that Marci needed to recruit Olivia to sit with her grandfather while Marci taught her 5:30 AM VIP Kid class online. We’ve decided that it’s impossible to keep Ross in Kent beyond the morning. So she’s taking him back to Richland County now. She plans to stay there with him until Louise is back on her feet. It’s not an ideal scenario, but we’re making it work. Because that’s how family works.

Our kids have been extra-flexible to help. Our siblings have been doing everything they can to offer practical and emotional support. We’re leaning on our spiritual family here in Kent, too. So I have great hope that we’ll get through this. But man! We’re learning a lot in a very little time-frame.

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