Monday, September 02, 2013

Travels With Frank #2: An Origin Story

Those of you who were blogging at AOLJournals in the old days may remember a blogger named Mary, who used to write about her Italian-American father. He lived in some kind of assisted living facility, and she would spent significant time visiting him. She also got to know and spend time with other residents, who weren't so lucky as to have relatives who turned up frequently to see them. Mary's posts were loving and strong and honest, not hiding at all from the difficulties of the situation. I really admired her for that, and was glad I wasn't going through the same thing.

Now I am.
Dad gets a haircut, 8/10/2013. He's obsessed these days with being clean-shaven.

I don't promise I can write about all this as steadily or as wisely as Mary did. I'm not sure exactly what my situation and my dad's calls for, here and now, but I know I need to say more than I've been saying. Recently I asked whether I should be blogging about my dad's dementia, and I got two votes for, two against. The first two comments were the nays. The concern was that I would violate my dad's privacy and dignity, putting him on display like a cute cat video. I can see that as a potential problem, but I don't think what I plan to do here will rise (or sink) to that level. I may make a few YouTube videos at some point, but if I do it won't be to have my Dad perform for the camera.

I also have more than a few things to say about parts of my life that don't involve my Dad.

Building on last night's intro, I'd like to use this entry to explain further the dynamics of the situation, and to respond to Bea's and Wil's comments to the previous post.

First: here's a quick look at the family tree.

My parents, Frank E Funk and Ruth Anne Johnson Funk, were divorced in 1976. My mom moved to Florida and lived in the Space Coast area for something like 17 years before moving here to Tucson. She had mild dementia in later years, compounded by mental health issues. Her last days, in late 2002, were a bit of a horror show, and I'm convinced that her extreme vagueness at the end was more psychiatric than memory-related.

Dad married Ruth Christy (formerly Ruth Christy Sisley) in 1977, and they moved to North Carolina around the beginning of 1989. Ruth had two daughters from her previous marriage, Jan and Amy, both around my age. They're both terrific people, but we never spent significant time together. They were very close to their mom, of course, and grew to love my dad as well. Financially and geographically, they were able to visit Dad and Ruth much more often than I was. I was a bit jealous of that!

Ruth was always wonderful to me, and she and Dad had a terrific marriage. Being younger than my Dad, Ruth always assumed she would be around to care for him at the end of his life, and they made their financial arrangements accordingly. But she was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2012 and died very soon after. I was on the phone with her four days before my dad found her body in the kitchen, and tried unsuccessfully to wake her up. Nowadays he doesn't always remember that she died at all. He wonders why he's not home in Wilmington with her, and whether she knows where he is.

Dad, Steve and me, December 2012.

My own brother, Steve, lives in the Cleveland area. His health is poor and his finances aren't much better. My dad used to worry about Steve a lot, when he was still capable of worrying about such things. One good thing about this dementia is that it seems to have blunted his emotional response to painful situations. Dad doesn't seem to feel Ruth's death as keenly as he otherwise would, although I'm sure he misses her. I'm not sure how much he remembers Steve at all, let alone Steve's heart issues and financial problems. As Jan says, Dad has trouble remembering who someone is unless they are right in front of him.

In 2011 or so, Jan had moved to Wilmington, NC to spend more time with her mom. My Dad had a few strokes and fibrillation early that year, leading to significant memory loss after his being remarkably active and functional well into his old age. When Ruth died, Amy and I flew out to Wilmington and strategized before and after the funeral. The plan was to keep Dad in his home as long as he could be safe and comfortable there. Jan was next on the list as successor power of attorney, so she set about settling the estate, making sure bills were paid and hiring caregivers, led by a wonderful woman called Bunny. But by November Dad was in the hospital with heart problems, kidney problems and a UTI. If he survived, he needed to move into a facility that could do more for him than Bunny and Co. could. And Jan and her husband wanted to move back to Vermont. The logical thing was for Dad to come here. Jan and I researched assisted living facilities in Tucson with memory care, which could also keep an eye on him medically. We settled on Cascades of Tucson. I'll pick up the story from there tomorrow night.

Regarding questions about the Mâvarin books: yes, Wil and Bea, I do intend to publish them as e-books. I was well on my way through a final edit on Heirs of Mâvarin when I got sidetracked by other concerns, mostly Dad. Part of the purpose of this return to blogging is to get me back into the discipline of writing in general, so that I can get the books done as well. One thing I still need to complete the project is a good cover illustration. I approached a former next door neighbor from 40 years ago who has illustrated children's books, and asked whether she would be interested in a commission, but I haven't heard back. Maybe she doesn't want to tell me I can't afford her services, or assumes I'm not serious and prepared to pay for them. But looking at the e-books I download, I can see that a professional quality cover image is a must. Any leads, anyone?


1 comment:

Wil said...

No leads on illustrators but you might consider contacting the Santa Fe or Tucson equivalent of the School of Arts to see if there's a 2nd or 3rd year with illustration potential. Less expensive than an established illustrator, they may be able to use the cover illustration for the Spring show, garnering the books some publicity and receive a quality product in the bargain.