Friday, May 09, 2008

It’s been a heck of a week around here. Last Friday, I learned that my dad had a small stroke. It turns out it really was relatively minor (a clot to his left occipital artery). He has lost some peripheral vision on the left side, but this morning on the phone said it seems to be returning.

Teri took a few days off her studies to go be with him. On Thursday morning, she sent a letter to us; here is most of it:

So I wanted to let you guys know about dad. He's really getting better and better; not his vision, that's still the same. But he's adapting. It doesn't make it ok, but it makes it easier not to worry about him. He's forgetful, but I don't think that is an acute problem from the stroke. And if you push him on things, he pulls it together and remembers. It's partly that he doesn't pay attention very well (not new, as we all know).

We spent all day together on Wednesday, and he did great. He didn't run into anything all day, and we walked at the mission for a couple of hours. He didn't always know where we were, but we were on the lower loop* and weren't at risk of getting lost. He was totally comfortable, though, he knew that he could find his way if we did get lost.

He got a burst of sadness on Tuesday night, and started crying. It's about time. He's sad he can't fly, can't even ride his bike, and can't just go for a walk. He can't even do things like walk home from the office, because he's not safe crossing the street. That will change, as he gets used to looking to the left, and if he stays in the crosswalks. But not yet.
But for the most part, he was in a good mood, and active and we had a nice visit. He works, waters the plants, does his thing.

He's a little dangerous in the kitchen. He spills when he pours coffee (Deborah is doing a lot of cleaning up these days), but he didn't yesterday; and sometimes he turns on the wrong burner. Again, I think it's more vision than dementia, because if you point it out, he totally sees and understands it. It's frustrating for him, though.

He is afraid of becoming a burden. I told him he's nowhere near it. He seems a little sad and a little scared, but is being stoic. We had a nice visit. He is a test in patience, but it's pretty easy. It's like having a cat who pees on the floor, you don't mind it because you love him so much.**

Anyway, the upshot is I don't think you guys should worry about him, but be gentle with him. I do think he might be in the beginning of some dementia, and his memory will get worse as he gets older.

In the meantime, you can sneak food off his plate from the left side without his noticing (that's pretty fun). But we don't' sneak up on his left because that's just mean.

Sandra*** is amazing. He got really lucky there. She is totally there for him, whatever he needs, without ever complaining. She is on call all the time, as far as I can tell. Sometimes his work in Goleta goes until the evening, and she is fine with that (she has to drive him there and back). I told her how much we appreciated her.

*One of the California Missions is located in the town where my dad lives. He goes there regularly to hike the “loop” up behind the mission. It’s not very long (3 miles, I think), and perfect for an afternoon stroll. I’m so relieved that he can still walk the loop without fear of being lost.

**About 4 ½ years ago, Teri adopted a street cat who was on the verge of dying. She figured she'd give him a comfortable place to live until he died (guessing a few weeks). In fact, she never even named him--right up to the end, he was "Orange Cat” (mostly we called him “OC”). But he kept getting healthier and he kept living. We all gotten used to him being around. But about a month ago, he started peeing on the floors, and about 2 weeks ago he stopped eating mostly. The vet said he was in complete renal failure. Last week, he lost his very distinctive meow (the cat version of a whisky and cigarettes voice). By Wednesday, he couldn't even lift his head easily. She didn't want him to be hurting anymore, she's devastated, but she had him euthanized.

***Sandra has worked for my dad for years and years (more than 20, I think). She came in as a patient and was hired on the spot when she translated for my dad for another patient. Through all the other office assistants who have come and gone, Sandra has been the constant. Teri’s right—we all are SO lucky to have her in our lives. She goes to great lengths for my dad without question or complaint. That’s just so cool.

I don’t think I really have much more to write about just now. I hope you all have a nice weekend. I’ll be back with more/different/better news soon.