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Living Life on Life’s Terms Isn’t for Pansies

On January 4th of 2020, I picked up my One Year Chip. How awesome that was. And in a stretch of ego, how proud I was of myself. Yes, I know I didn’t do it alone, but I was still proud of myself for not giving into the craving, especially early on.

So, I picked up my chip and all was so good in my world. February came and I was still on that pink cloud, vowing to never step off of it – hell, my sponsor said I never had to if I didn’t want to, so why would I?

Then came March, and we all know what March brought. For me, it brought a little more unknown than I was ready for. But I have a program and a higher power, and I was going to be okay. My meetings shut down, but we all found Zoom and again I knew it would be okay.

April got a little harder. I was diagnosed with Covid on April 9th. I was lucky and able to manage my symptoms at home. One thing that was becoming more and more evident, though, was that I was starting to miss my fellowship – the Zoom meetings weren’t quite filling the void anymore. Plus, I had been laid off on March 16th, so I was living in an isolation I knew would be NO good for me. But I was still okay. I leaned on my higher power hard, but He’s got broad shoulders. Then came May.

May was gonna be good. We got back to work on the 13th and although it wasn’t as busy as it needed to be, it would pick up. I just knew it would. And although Covid was ripping through the world, I could stay busy with work and feel some normalcy.

Side Note: I live in South Carolina and masks weren’t much of a thing here until quite recently. So we eventually became a “hot spot”, made the national news – the works. And as Bill would say when sharing his story… “And then it got worse.”

My mom had always lived independently. At 77 she was the neighbor who took all her neighbors to doctor appointments, the pharmacy, grocery store; whatever they needed. On May 20th mom was doing what she does – taking a neighbor to a doctor appointment. Except that after dropping off her friend, she disappeared. Just like that. We searched and searched, checked parking lots of nearby doctor offices, hospital parking lots, made all the phone calls, and yielded nothing. We checked her apartment for clues, and that’s where we found that her wallet with all her money, credit cards, and license were still there. As was her cell phone. Mom disappeared and had no money or ID or way to call or be called. That’s when I started to feel a serious WTF feeling.

In the meantime, I had filed a missing person report here with the police department. Besides walking in the rooms of A.A., that was the smartest thing I’ve done.  All told my mom was missing a total of 26 hours. She was found at about 1:30 on the 21st, in Virginia. I may have forgotten to mention my mom lives here in SC too. She was pulled over by a police officer for driving with her hazards on. The officer here in SC who filed the missing persons immediately put mom on the NCIC, so her license plate dinged as soon as the officer in Virginia ran it. Maybe that’s procedure, I don’t know, but I’m grateful he did that. Beyond grateful.

**At this point I’d like to point out again that mom had no ID or money. I have no idea where she spent that 26 hours because the trip to Virginia from here is 4, maybe 5 hours. This troubled me for weeks, but she doesn’t remember any of it, so that right there is some Grace of God stuff, and I chose to let that go**

Mom had no idea where she was, how she’d gotten there, or why she’d gone there. She was belligerent with the officer and he brought her to the hospital for evaluation. That hospital was less than helpful. As a matter of fact, for a minute I thought about legal charges against them, but knew I could not afford to pursue litigation against them. So, I let it go. Mom wasn’t hurt by them; she just wasn’t helped.

That Thursday we were ready to head back to South Carolina, but it was too much to drive so we decided to get a room. I had to stay up all night long at that hotel because mom kept trying to leave the room… that was a long night. We came back home the next morning and I will spare too much of that story; let’s just say that immediately upon returning home I brought mom to the hospital here, where she was admitted and stayed for what ended up being a week. There I found out mom had developed a bad UTI which brought on an early onset of dementia. That explained her previously inexplicable trip to Virginia and her subsequent behaviors.

About the 4th day in the hospital, it became obvious that once the UTI had cleared up mom wasn’t much better. That dementia wasn’t just going to go away. What was worse though was because she wasn’t “medically” in need any longer, the hospital wanted her gone. Every day they would tell me she needed to be released. I had no idea what the hell I was supposed to do with her! She certainly couldn’t live alone anymore and if she stayed with me, I’d have to quit my job and probably never sleep again for fear she’d sneak out of my house. None of those were viable option, I was so lost. Suddenly I’m the caregiver with absolutely no clue what my next steps were. Medicare, Medicaid – I knew nothing, but I was about to get a crash course.

Again, I’ll spare you all the details, but I found a place for mom to be transferred to while I tried to figure the Medicaid/Medicare piece out. It’s a lovely assisted living that is costing me $2000 a month. I cannot sustain that for much longer before I bankrupt myself. To make matters worse, this assisted living facility (I have very recently learned) doesn’t accept Medicaid payments. As a matter of fact, there’s one place that covers most of the eastern seaboard of South Carolina for Medicaid assisted living residents. It’s an hour away and NO ONE is taking what they refer to as “community transfers” due to Covid. So, for now, mom has to stay there while I try to figure out how old is too old to become a prostitute…

Kidding, of course.

So, for now, mom is where she is and she’s safe. She’s as mean as a rattlesnake every time I see her, she even told me she wished she had killed me when she had the chance. Yes, I know she has a disease and doesn’t always know what she saying, but I can promise you that doesn’t make it hurt any less. But I’m all she’s got and I don’t get another mom, so it is what it is.

My sobriety has taken quite a hit, but it’s still intact. Year 2 of sobriety has thrown a shit ton of curve balls at me and I’m trying to learn when to swing and when to let em go by. I’m getting better at it. I got to go to an in-person meeting last night – first one since early March. It was glorious. I have been missing my “people” so much. Way more than I realized.

I’m sure there’s a lot I left out, maybe forgot, but I’m finally beginning to realize what some of our slogans mean. Living Life on Life’s Terms isn’t for pansies. One Day at A Time is something I’m having trouble with these days, but my people smack me in the back of the head with it when I need it. Also when I need it, they’re here for me. You’re here for me. That’s amazing and I hope to never take that for granted.

Back to my journey. Thanks for listening ?


The Adventures Of Alzheimer’s – A Humorous Approach

Over 5% of Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease.

This is her story.

Alzheimer’s is one crazy bitch, just like my mom.

Don’t worry; I’m not an evil daughter, I just decided to take the more, shall we say, “optimistic” approach to my mom’s disease than some people would. Also, I have a very warped sense of humor, which has helped me get through quite a bit throughout my 40 years on this planet.

I’ve already been through my dad’s stroke in my 20’s, Mom’s stroke right after, followed by the death of my first husband when I was 27, my dad’s death when I was 28, my mom’s slow decline into Alzheimer’s Disease, and so much more.

Humor has been my savior and my go-to tool for as long as I can remember. So, please keep that in mind as you read what I’m sharing. Because believe me, my heart breaks into thousands of tiny shards of broken glass when I really allow myself to think of the shell of a person my mom has become.

I miss my mom terribly.

It pains me to talk to her now; our weekly phone calls have drifted into bi-weekly and crossed over into monthly conversations, simply and selfishly because it hurts me to hear her so confused. There is nothing more that I miss than being able to talk to her – really have a normal conversation with her – one that I know she was comprehending what I am saying to her.

Even when I was at war with her in my teen years, I’d take that over what I have with her now. I wish I could have those times back, but I can’t, so instead of being hurt and mortified by mom’s words and actions, I try to find humor instead. Although there are times I hang up the phone and just allow myself to cry for her, for me, for us.

I have decided to blog various stories about mom that have made me chuckle over the years. It’s okay to laugh, I do.


I should have known Mom was drifting toward Alzheimer’s when we went out to eat one night. While the cashier was ringing up our check, mom grabbed a peppermint from the large bowl of candy on the counter. She must have really loved those peppermints because she grabbed another one and shoved it quickly into her mouth while the cashier handed me my change.

I unzipped my pocketbook and Mom unzipped hers. I put my wallet back in to my pocketbook; Mom dumped the whole bowl of candy into her pocketbook and walked out the door.

I was mortified! I asked the cashier “How much for candy?” She just looked at me, shocked, and said “Don’t worry about.“


One day I was lounging around, soaking up the sun, half watching my children swim in our pool and half daydreaming. The phone rang, bringing me out of my semi-comatose state.

“Hello,” I mumbled into the mouthpiece.

“Ma’am,” a Southern gentleman drawled, “is your mom named OCB?”

“Yes, who’s this?” I asked, my suspicion aroused. Who the hell was this guy asking about my mom? How did he get my unlisted number?

**Side note: even in the depths of her Alzheimer’s, she’s never forgotten my home phone number.**

“I’m Clyde, from the Pottery Mart? Over here on Airline Lane? You know it?” he asked.

I could see the big red building clearly forming within my brain. It was located in the town where my mom lived, about fifteen minutes away. They had a large statue of a rearing horse on top of their sign and I often wondered how they had gotten it up there. “Yes, I know it. What’s going on? Is my mom alright?” My suspicion had now turned to concern.

“I reckon ma’am. We don’t want to call the police…”

Police! What the hell is this guy talking about?

“…but it seems your mom has gotten into someone’s car, and she won’t get out. The owner of the car has been real nice and all, but your mom insists it’s her car, but it clearly ain’t; her keys just won’t fit into the ignition. She told us to call you. Can you come down? She seems pretty scared and, well, pretty mad.”

I was dressed and out the door with the kids in record time. On the drive over, never once did it occur to me that my mom had Alzheimer’s. I figured she was merely having an ‘off day,’ which happened from time to time since her stroke several years prior.

I arrived to find my mom sitting in a white vehicle (hers was red), with a gentleman standing alongside and another gentleman sitting on the ground looking a wee bit pissed. I thanked both men profusely, apologized countless times, and sent several thankful prayers up to God that they didn’t call the police or the EMT’s. I was even thankful that we lived in the South at the time and not New York. I managed to talk my mom out of the man’s car (I don’t recall what I told her), and I drove her home. My friend drove her car, and that was the last time my mom ever drove her car, or any other vehicle, at least that I know of, anyway.

This event led me to take her to the doctor for a full work up and her first official diagnosis of Stage One Alzheimer Disease.


Now that I’ve brought you full circle, this fun phone call I had with Mom the other day prompted me to write this novella in the first place:

After going round and round with Mom about my weather on the east coast versus her weather in the central United States, and having that same conversation several times, she asked how things were with my family. She always remembers my boys’ names, but has trouble remembering Peanut’s name because she came along further into Mom’s illness.  We talked about the kids for a few minutes, then I shared with her that I bought myself a car.

Out of the blue, Mom remarked, “A car? It must be nice to have a car to drive wherever you want. I wouldn’t know since you took mine away. You know you did. I remember. It was red and I loved it and I shopped in it and I went to the VFW in it. I danced at the VFW on Saturday night. You took it away. Why did you take my car? I went to the craft store in it. I used to go…”

I could sense she was building up steam so I cut her off at the pass and said, “As a matter of fact, I do remember that car, Mom. I gave it to my brother. Aren’t you going to see him at lunch today? You should ask him what he did with it!” I snickered into the phone. I could see my brother now, sitting across the table from my mom and getting blindsided by this conversation. It would be a classic! He gave that car to his son almost ten years ago; who knows how long it’s been out of the family now.

“Really?” Mom replied, “He’s coming up here for lunch. I’m going to ask him about my car!”

Crisis avoid.

Buck passed.

When Every Day is The Best It Can Be

Being a caregiver to a loved one is one of the most gut-wrenching things a person has to do.

This is her story:

I’ve been contemplating blogging for quite sometime. I’ve been afraid to for several reasons, but to rattle off a few: anonymity, vulnerability, and pure avoidance. I have a fear that if I actually put the feelings/circumstances/questions out there, it means I actually have to deal with them. Thank you Aunt Becky for starting this blog…so I can get my toes wet.

From what I can tell of this space, many are dealing with loss, mostly stemming from the unfathomable experiences associated with childbearing/loss/postpartum/depression and the host of other issues those of us who are now “adults” face. I would like to add another sad layer to party – dealing with caring for someone whose mind and spirit are being slowly ripped away through Alzheimer’s Disease.

My mother, the beautiful, talented, smart, amazing hero of my world, is slipping away. I cannot say things like…she has had a full life, this is part of getting older etc. You see, she’s only 61 years old. We are at least 5 years into this battle (it took most of those 5 years just to get a diagnosis) and it feels like this freight train is traveling full force. Every day, for my mom, is the best it will ever be. Tomorrow, some different aspect of the person she is today will be gone. For now, she knows me, she knows my kids, she know she is my mom. She doesn’t remember where she lives, when the last time she talked to me was, whether or not she fed the dog (yes, at least 5 times now) or how old the kids are, let alone that she just told me the same story for the tenth time in a single conversation. It can be so frustrating, but I have to constantly remind myself…today is as good as it gets.

I need an outlet…and hope this can be one. Caregiving, whether its for an infant, child, spouse, sibling or parent, means giving more of ourselves than we ever thought we could give.

And that comes at a price. I look to you, fellow fighters, for insight, laughs and support. I promise to give it all back.

Growing Old Gracefully Is Optional

Growing old is optional, growing old gracefully even more so.

My mom did not have it easy in the last 5 years of her life.  Her first problem was with her sciatic nerve, which first caused pain then weakness in her legs and eventually left her dependence on a wheelchair. I tried to keep in mind that she was in pain, scared and unsure during the times when she seemed to be going the extra mile to be as difficult as possible, but I wasn’t always successful.

After my father passed (Mom went just 4 yrs later), my mother became a shut-in.  This was pretty much by choice.  We lived 4.5 hrs apart, I’m an only child and we have no relatives who still speak to us living nearby. She refused to consider moving and her house looked liked something you’d see on “Hoarders,” but that’s yet another story. She wanted to live completely independent of help, especially mine, because this was the first time in her life that she was on her own, so I think she wanted to prove to herself that she could.

Did I mention “shut-in?”

She was defiant, she was determined to be independent and she was lying…I had a 74-year old teenager on my hands.

She ordered food through Amway. She bought her clothes via catalogs. She banked via the mail. She had a few friends who would come over and check on her most days, but the situation was far from ideal. Her mind was not the best, but she was sharp enough to lie to me about anything that didn’t show her situation in the best of lights.

For instance, she never told me about the time she fell and had to call the neighbors to help her up.  She never told me about the time, in a very confused state, she called 911 in the middle of the night because -best I can piece together- she had a dirty diaper and was having trouble changing it herself.  The cops busted the front door open and were not at all pleased to find her in no actual danger.

She did tell me about the time she called 911 for a ride to her doctor’s appointment, only because she felt a grave injustice was being done. Something had happened with her scheduled special needs ride, and she reasoned that if the doctor needed to see her then she needed to take an ambulance. She had received a bill for $700 for that non-emergency ride and didn’t think she should have to pay it. I did talk her into paying the bill, hoping she’d learn her lesson.

I tried mentioning the idea of assisted living, but she wouldn’t hear it.

They beat you and lock you in your room!” she screamed. Eventually, I convinced her to get some in-home elder care and a woman would come by three times a week for three hours at a time to cook, clean, and run errands for her. Finally, I could get the low-down on her condition from someone who would be honest with me.

This started out well, as Mom enjoyed having someone to talk to and she was now getting fresh, home-cooked meals instead of the packaged crap she ordered via the mail.  But, it didn’t last.  I got a call from the coordinator to tell me my mom was hitting the workers.  She was also being verbally abusive.  At one point, Mom chased a worker out of the house, screaming at her from the front door.

I got emails from a friend of Mom’s who had visited her, only to find her crying hysterically, saying “I hate my life!” and hitting herself in the head. When asked about it the next day, Mom acted surprised and said nothing like that had happened.

Then, Mom came down with a bad cold that required someone to stay with her while she was ill.  The elder care folks were great and worked out schedules so that she was tended 24/7 until she got better. Problem was, despite appearing to hate these helpers, once Mom got better, she didn’t want the 24/7 visitation to end.  In fact, now she was refusing to let them leave. I’d have been fine with the additional help, but we could not afford the $10,000 per month for very long.

I had to talk with Mom and tell her it had to stop. This did not go well, and there were tears, but in the end, she cut back to 1 visitation, 5 days per week.

The pain and weakness in her leg was getting worse, and it was spreading to the other leg.  We talked to a number of doctors, but she didn’t like most of them and liked even less what they had to say.  Finally, after yet another fall that she still would not admit to, she was in the hospital again.  Her doctor convinced her to have back surgery, and at last she agreed.  She was hell on wheels both pre- and post-surgery.  She had a fear of falling that was off the charts.

When the nurses tried to move her in the bed, or, heaven forbid, try to get her to stand up, she’d scream. I’m talking hear-her-down-the-hallway screaming.  I’d leave the room and stand outside biting back tears whenever anyone tried to work with her.

When she was well enough to leave the hospital, she went to a rehab facility to help her get back on her feet as much as possible. It was there that some medical genius, who I’d kiss on the lips today, put her on anti-depressants (yeah, I know, “what took so freakin’ long?!” – she refused them before because she didn’t want to “take dope”).  Mom became a bit more reasonable and a little easier to deal with.  More like heck-on-wheels.  When I asked her why they put her on the happy pills, she said “so I’d stop screaming.”


During rehab, her doctor spoke with me, informing me that she could not live on her own. Preaching to the choir, sir. So, through hook, crook and threats of Adult Protective services, I got her to agree to move “temporarily” to an Assisted Living facility near me.  I found a really nice place a mile from my home and they assured me that the beatings would be kept to a minimum. (Joke!)

We moved some of her favorite things up and set up her two-room apartment to look really nice and homey. When she got out of the hospital we drove her straight to her new home.  Despite hearing how horrible it was, we watched her start to enjoy life again.  She was making friends and playing Bingo every day.  God forbid you came by during Bingo hours, only did THAT once.

Mom *loved* the call buzzer and actually wore the one by her bed out, because she used it so much.  She still managed to keep things lively.  I got a call from her one Easter morning, telling me she couldn’t move her leg and perhaps she had had a stroke. “Should I go to the hospital?”  Well, the normal answer would be “Hell YES!” but I had learned to ask.  “Why didn’t the nurse call the ambulance for you?” I ask. Mom said that they wanted her to check with me first.  None of this was adding up, so I told her I’d be right over.  When I got there she was wheeling around her room, fully dressed and looking fine.  I asked which leg it was that she could not move.  “This one!” she said, bouncing the leg up and down.

Her behavior continued to become more erratic, and I got a call that I never thought I’d get.  Mom was flashing her boobs at the male help and at some poor, unsuspecting wheelchair repairman.  Oy.  A doctor was brought in and a diagnosis of dementia was made.  This only pissed her off.  She accused the facility and the doctor of telling horrible lies about her. “I’d never do that!” she yelled.

In the end it really was a stroke that took her.  The weekend of Thanksgiving she had a massive stroke affecting half of her brain.  She had her 78th birthday in the hospital, but was not aware enough to know it and she passed just a few days before Christmas.

I’m still working on cleaning out the house, but it is getting close to being done.  I avoid driving by the assisted living place, still too many bad memories. I can laugh about Mom flashing the help. It’s two years later and I’m finally getting to the point that I don’t jump when the phone rings.

Growing old gracefully is optional, for sure.

Three Weeks

3 weeks ago my grandma fell and broke her neck.

3 weeks ago she was rushed to Peoria to see if they could fix her.

At 82 with severe Parkinson’s Disease, degenerative bone disease, (from which she’d lost a whole 12 inches off her height) dementia, and multiple other health problems, we didn’t know what the options were.

The surgeon suggested surgery to repair the fracture. He was hopeful that it would work. Do nothing and she could become a paraplegic if she so much as coughed too hard. Or she could live with the neck brace, which she hated, her lungs could fill up with fluid and she could develop pneumonia. In such poor health, that’s not good.

We opted for surgery; really the only option. Grandma was scared but we all told her we loved her. I told her we would go dancing after she was done as she hasn’t walked in over two years.

She smiled and held our hands, said she loved us and off she went.

Surgery went well and they were able to fix the break. That was not the major hurdle though. Even in good health, Grandma has never done well with anesthesia. Two days before her fall, the dentist didn’t even want to give her a local to fix a couple teeth as she’s allergic to Novocaine.

After surgery, she was put into a regular room and about an hour later, her vitals crashed.

She was gasping for breath. She looked so very scared. She gripped my hand as a wonderful nurse held the oxygen mask on her for close to an hour until they were able to get a bed ready in the Surgical ICU. Once she was settled in the ICU, we each took turns going to see Grandma. She was on a ventilator to help her breathe and give the swelling a chance to go down after surgery. This was against her wishes and she was miserable. She had the vent in for 3 days until it was removed. She did so well.

They observed her for a day in the Surgical ICU (SICU), then transferred her down to another room for a few days.

When she was ready, she was discharged.They didn’t send her back to her assisted living apartment, but to a skilled nursing facility with hospice. Everyone came to visit. Friends, grandchildren, family, everyone. Someone was by her side 24/7. She would talk a little, barely a whisper. Grandma looked at pictures and had us to sing to her while we sat by her side. She told us that she saw my grandpa who passed away in 1978.

She told us all of the beautiful things she was seeing and hearing. It was amazing to listen to her. She told us so many stories. She told us there would be no more pain there and no more wheelchairs. We all laughed and cried and held her hand.

On Tuesday November 16, Grandma took her last breath while my mom sang to her. My mom said it was very peaceful. Grandma wasn’t afraid like she had been in the hospital. I am so very thankful for that. I miss her, maybe more than I can ever express.  My kids miss her too.  They are hurting.  I have given them songs that help them feel better, or so they say.  I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t know how to fix their hurt, or mine.

This holiday is especially going to be hard for me.

Last year I was upset because I wouldn’t get to spend it at Grandma’s house. At least I got to spend it with her.

Now I don’t even have that.

Happy Birthday To My Type One Diabetic Dad

Today is my dad’s 64th birthday and it’s a miracle he’s here to celebrate it. He’s a Type I Diabetic and has been since he was four years old.

Growing up, I thought diabetes was no big deal, my dad seemed like a regular guy.  He water skied, ate chocolate cake and drank Coors Light. If he ate or drank too much, he just had a little extra insulin. It seemed simple and without consequence. The only “drama” was that he almost went blind when I was a baby, but several rounds of laser treatments fixed that. I thought my dad was invincible, which was perfect, because he was my world.

Fast-forward to my senior year in college. I was on a bike ride with my fiance in Southern California, when I got the call that my dad had suffered a heart attack and was in a hospital in Northern California. I pause here to wipe away the tears because  even eleven years later, the panic of that memory still grips me. What?  A heart attack? My dad is invincible.  I peddled hard and fast to get my ass home, packed a bag and drove like a bat out of hell to get to my dad.  (Pausing for more tears.)

As I raced across the parking lot, I heard my dad’s voice yelling my name. I looked up to see him hanging his head out the window, waving at me. Okay, he’s still invincible.

My stepmother had driven him to a Kaiser hospital (where we are not members) rather than have an ambulance take him to his hospital. I spent the next several days getting him transferred.

Once in his hospital, he had to have a simple angiogram.

After the procedure, the doctor explained that being a Type I Diabetic had shot his vascular system (a statement I would come to hear many times) and that from here on out things would get dicey. The irony is I didn’t believe him, he didn’t know MY dad, he didn’t believe that my dad was a superhero.

What happened next should have opened my eyes. There was some complication from the angiogram and something went wrong, very wrong. He didn’t look right, he was acting funny. I asked my grandmother to take my younger brothers down the hall to get a soda. I screamed for a nurse. They ran in and assessed him, I stared at the Code Blue button on the wall, I knew it was going to be hit.

It was.

The next thing I knew, the room filled with people and a crash cart as we -the family -were ushered out.  I stood in the hallway praying, shaking, crying. My brothers, thankfully, had no idea, my husband (fiance at the time) heard the Code Blue call and didn’t imagine that it could be MY dad.  hey stabilized him, put in a stint and he was sent home. Then the deterioration began.

Fast forward four years of minor emergencies, medication and doctor’s appointments. I got another one of those calls that makes your blood run cold. Dad had another heart attack and it was major. He needed triple bypass and fast – “the Type I Diabetes had thoroughly shot his vascular system.”

They were transferring him by ambulance to the hospital to perform surgery the next morning. This time, we were three hours away from him  My aunt and I took off, driving through the night to make sure we were there to see him before they put him under for surgery. I wanted to donate blood but there simply wasn’t time. I wanted something, anything besides wait. I was a wreck.

He made it through surgery and we were allowed to see him when it was over. He unconscious and still on life-support. I have never seen so many tubes and machines.  The equipment that surrounded him, dwarfed my larger-than-life dad.

The next five weeks were tough. When I ran out of sick time at work, I drove up every weekend, sleeping on his bedroom floor, giving my step-mother a break, listening to make sure he was breathing. (I don’t think it was medically necessary, but it was emotionally necessary for me).

On one of these visits, I was upstairs when I heard my stepmother screaming. I ran down the stairs, my dad looked catatonic, she had a phone in her hand that she handed to me as 911 picked up.  (Pausing for more tears.)

I explained to the emergency operator that we needed an ambulance, it looked like a seizure, but I wasn’t sure.  Of course I wasn’t fucking sure, I was just a terrified girl who didn’t want to lose her father.  It was the middle of the night, I said no sirens, I didn’t want my little brothers (who were 6 and 11) woken up to more scary sights.

By the time the paramedics and firemen arrived, my dad had come back.  They determined it was a vasovagel reaction from the pain.  But they wanted to take him back in, just to be sure.  I rode in the front seat of the ambulance because I am protective like that.  He recovered from the surgery, but he dropped out of cardiac rehab because apparently, he still thought he was invincible.

As years passed, he did deteriorate as predicted.  He has suffered multiple TIA’s.  He has no long-term and very little short-term memory.  He is bound to a walker.  He can never remember the names of my kids or my husband. He can’t be left alone for long periods of time.

Diabetes has caught up but it hasn’t won… yet, sort of.

My dad is still alive today to celebrate his 64th birthday, but the man I knew is gone. Every visit with him is hard for me.  I used to talk to him multiple times per day.  Now I have to remind myself to call him every couple of weeks. It should be more frequent.

I still panic if the phone rings too early or too late, but in some ways, I don’t have much left to lose.  I talk to him to make him happy, but it pains me to see him confined to his wrecked body.  I struggle with guilt every day because I should call more, visit more, do more.  But I feel empty and I know that is not right.

Sure, there are extenuating circumstances – my stepmother and I have always had a strained relationship. She wanted me there to help with my dad’s recovery, but she doesn’t want me there for family vacations and birthday parties.

They would put me in charge at hospitals and then berate me when it was over for trying to control things.  I could go on and on.  I could explain that I have a family that needs me with them now.  But in the end, they are just excuses why I don’t go more, do more and watch more as my superhero continue to fade away.

Happy Birthday, Dad.  I love you and I miss you.

But the you I miss is gone.