Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Travels With Frank #3: An Origin Story, Part Two

It being Labor Day, I actually had the day off for a change - sort of. I didn't have to go to any of my three jobs,, but I did do some web work for St. Michael's, I helped a friend clean house in preparation for an inspection, and I took my Dad to Saguaro National Park again.

There was a lecture about mountain lions (a.k.a pumas, a.k.a. cougars, among other names) at the Red Hills Visitor Center at Saguaro National Park West. I didn't really expect Dad to enjoy it, but it was good an excuse as any to choose that particular drive for this afternoon, over Gates Pass, past the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and on into the western unit of the National Park, the other half of which lies on the absolute opposite side of the city of Tucson. The underground room where the lecture was held was a bit warm, we were late, only two other people were in attendance and Dad was bored. But I learned a lot. And he got the part that he likes, a fairly long and dramatic drive, with lots of signs to read.

What makes the drive dramatic, apart from the mountains and desert in general, is the drive over Gates Pass. I have yet to really capture in pictures how steep and narrow and twisted and scary it is, but here is today's attempt to do so:

 Going down!

 The white speck on the middle left of the photo is a car.

 There's a car speck in this shot also.

A long way down!

Anyway, so we did the drive, and learned how to scare away a mountain lion in the unlikely circumstance that it isn't already running away from you - at least, I did. When we got back up Gates Pass afterward we came across a young women posing against the dramatic scenery in a rather spectacular dress:

So that was today. But last night in my entry, I left off my "origin story" at the point when my stepsister Jan and I chose to move Dad from Wilmington, where he had been in the hospital and then in a rehab facility, to the memory care unit of Cascades of Tucson. By the time Dad was well enough to travel and the Cascades people were satisfied that we was well enough to live there, it was early February. Meanwhile, in December, the five of us - Jan, Amy, my brother Steve and me, plus John as a non-heir helping out - gathered at Dad and Ruth's now uninhabited home, divided up the possessions and met with the lawyer. The idea was to empty out the place and sell it, so that the money could be applied to Dad's care. But eight months later it still hasn't sold. There hasn't been so much as a nibble in months. But Jan and Amy packed up their mom's stuff amidst many tears, Steve chose things that either he could use or that meant something to him by way of family history, and I went for things from my childhood, or that I could use to furnish Dad's new home or remind him of his past. And we got Dad's 2005 Prius, just as John's car had become undriveable.

Jan told Dad he was going to Tucson and sort of told him that he was moving there, but he didn't really understand. Amy and his caregiver Bunny flew with him. Bunny would stay in town several days to help ease him into his new life. My stepsister Amy, a doctor, met with the nurses at the Cascades, looked things over and asked the right questions, and flew home to Detroit the next day.

By February 21st, Dad's 90th birthday, the novelty of Tucson had warn off and Dad expected at any given moment that I would drive him home. He had no idea that that was never going to happen, nor that it was more than a few minutes' drive away.When I told him, he was quite unhappy, saying that the place he was, or his situation, was "not much good at all."

But he got something like 40 cards for his 90th birthday, which I later had to hang on his walls with strings. He still hasn't let me take those down. And we took him out to an Italian restaurant that night, and he got his own salad from the salad bar.

The next day he was in the hospital, and nearly died. In all the moving about, with all the different doctors and nurses in all the different facilities, he had ended up with excessive heart medicine, resulting in dangerously low blood pressure.  I was by his side, watching the monitors giving off their alarming readings as he ranted semi-deliriously about an upcoming board meeting at the Wilmington Railroad Museum, where he had been the board president. The meeting was probably years ago.

Again we thought he would die. He didn't. Actually, since he left the hospital this time, he's shown no sign of further heart trouble. I'm sure the chronic underlying problems are still there, but I see no evidence of it, and I see him every day.

His cognitive function is another story.


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