I just returned from another late night at the hospital with my Dad. He was agitated and distressed, and it turned out the only thing that soothed him was singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” over and over. he has no idea where he is, or what is happening around him, but he knows the words and melodies to “You Are My Sunshine” and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”
For months George has been working with a company called Singfit–their entire premise is to help people with dementia through music, because apparently even the most confused person can access lyrics and melodies and it’s soothing to them to sing.
My Dad is back in the hospital again after a stunningly fast decline. He was in on Thursday for extreme confusion to the point of not recognizing my sister and me. (“Who are those two ladies?”) My sister, Maria, flew in from Utah to help with my Dad for a week.
The hospital ran a bunch of tests and sent him home, but 48 hours later, he had sunk even further into confusion and delirium and was unable to move. My little sister, Marlise, arrived from Austin, Texas, and we all held my Dad and tried to help him walk, but he looked at his foot and nothing would happen.
George had to carry him to his room like Rhett carried Scarlett up the stairs.
I called an ambulance and my sisters and I met him at the ER. After my Dad received his fluids and blood transfusions, he felt better and when the nurse asked him where he was, he said, “Why are you asking me? Don’t you know where you are?”
The room only had two chairs and there were three of us. Being polite, I let my sisters sit down, but it turns out my older sister, Maria, is a chair hog. When she wanted to move closer to my Dad, instead of standing up and walking, she walked hunched over, hanging onto her chair and dragging it behind her.
What the hell? When the nurse needed to get an IV into my Dad, Maria stayed in the chair and scooted over a couple of scoots. “What is the deal with your attachment to that chair?” Both of my sisters started laughing so hard tears were streaming down their faces. Maria pretended to moon us, which is what she likes to do to drive us crazy, but she couldn’t because she couldn’t move off her chair. Marlise kept shaking her head saying, “I couldn’t make this shit up!”
The drunk in the hallway started retching and I gingerly pulled the drape over to cover the window and shut the door to hide the hideous sound. Mary, the nurse, told my Dad to keep his arm straight. He kept bending it and finally Maria said, “Dad! Mary’s coming! Quick, straighten your arm.”
My Dad immediately straightened his arm and hung his tongue out of the side of his mouth.
My sisters sent me away from the hospital today to spend time with the kids and take a break. I walked into the grocery store and broke down sobbing. I called Marlise, “I can’t take a break. I am going full throttle right now and I can’t slow down. I can’t break my connection to my father’s care, and when I’m away from him, all I do is think of him. After crying I felt a lot better and was able to spend some time with my family before returning to the hospital to get him into his own room. We played Hangman on his white board and sang songs.
My Dad has a fever and is totally delirious. I brought my Mom home and turned on her favorite movie for her, Beauty and the Beast. I returned to the hospital to pick up Maria and we held my Dad’s cold gray hands, the hands I have loved all my life and sang with him.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks, I don’t care if I never get back
Then it’s Root-Root-Root for the ballgame, if they don’t win it’s a shame
Then it’s 1-2-3 strikes you’re out! At the old ball game.