Cowboys have a classic stereotype of being tough, but I’m here to tell you that they’re really softies inside! 🙂  I think Dad knew the truth – he always wanted to grow up to be a cowboy.  Which makes this tale even better!

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(Real-time Entry)

The experience at the psychiatric ward has gotten worse before getting better.

Following a positive and energized week for me last week, I then visited Dad over this past weekend and was throttled by what I saw.  The hospital had him so drugged (in their ongoing effort to subdue his violent outbursts and reduce his hallucinations) that all he could do was mumble unintelligently while strapped into a wheelchair bent over at the waist unable to hold himself up and drooling. My God, how could there be such a horrific change in just 5 days??  I began struggling with what they’re doing to him, I became very angry at the medical and legal systems for thinking this was the best way to treat a sick person, and I began that oh familiar spiral downward…

Saturday’s visit was the worst one so far, partially because I was so unprepared for what I was going to find. Sunday Dad was still unable to use most muscles in his body but he was no longer drooling and was able to utter partial phrases, which I tried to understand by putting my ear to his lips.  At one point, he said I should call my cousin Debbie.  I said, Sure, Dad, I’ll call Debbie.  And why don’t I call cousin Karrie as well?  She sent you a big hug today and I could tell her you sent her a hug back! He said, Just… call all the girls… and tell them. I asked, What do you want me to tell all the girl cousins? He said, Uncle Frank… is dying. Tears welled up in my eyes and my Mom’s.  We were grateful his eyes were closed so he couldn’t see us.  I said softly to Dad, Is that what you think is going on here, Dad? That you’re dying?? He said, Pretty much… that’s what I see… going on. And he fell asleep and we silently cried.

I experienced a couple horrible days following those visits with a lot of tears and an unmotivated heavy heart.  I only started perking back up after Mom reported last night, Wednesday, that when she walked in for her visit, she found Dad walking around with the help of a nurse and he had been talking about the love of his life, Fran, and then he said, And there she is! The doctor had just changed Dad’s antipsychotic medication from Zyprexa to Risperdal (I believe with the other 5 meds remaining the same) and the results seemed nearly instantaneous and unbelievable! (NOTE: It is believed that by altering communication among nerves in the brain and by altering communication through neurotransmitters, this class of atypical antipsychotic drugs can alter irritability, resistant depression and the psychotic state.)

I have to admit, I woke up this morning a LOT easier and faster!  It does seem that when Dad’s having a good day, I have a good day; and when he’s not, it’s very bad news for me.  Interestingly, I am undoubtedly the only family member who is this affected by it all.  I’m also the most emotional person in my immediate family, besides my father.  And I do spend a lot of time and energy mulling over everything so that I can report back on it for my movie and website.

Does this sensation of me being so empathetic to his situation simply make me a dedicated and loving daughter and a good storyteller as a result of our close relationship? Or is it a detrimental effect that is harming me and my health and my life? My God, do I unconsciously believe that I need to suffer along with him?? I need to figure this one out so that I can support him without being dragged down by the awful set of circumstances that is undoubtedly going to continue to be in our lives.  As they say, I need to get a grip.

P.S. Today the 2 in-home care workers who stole from us went before a judge at The Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit (home of the Wayne County Circuit Court) and pleaded GUILTY to ALL counts!!!  Their trial and sentencing is set for March 19, 2010.  That news, on top of Dad’s turn around, was the perfect platform for my mother to board a plane today for Florida for some much needed rest, relaxation and decompression.  I hope she finds what she needs.

P.P.S. I wrote this blog this morning.  Below is video following my afternoon visit today with Dad.

(BACK-STORY)

Since Mom and Dad are now both retired, they decided to take advantage of the situation and the quality time that remains between them.  They planned a 2-month trip and called it their Retirement Vacation.

The social butterflies that they are, with friends from coast to coast, they worked their way by car down to Florida.  The next phase of their Retirement Vacation was to rent our old family home in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.  I was VERY much looking forward to meeting them in Hilton Head with my brothers, sleeping in my old bedroom, drifting off to sleep with the waves crashing…

But then Mom suggested I fly to Florida to meet her and Dad there instead.  They apparently thought that a couple weeks of quiet, quality time – just the 3 of us! – would be just what the doctor ordered for me.  However, it was only on the plane today, as Michigan got smaller and smaller in my window, that I realized just HOW much this was the most BRILLIANT idea ever!!

It was such a heartwarming relief when their car pulled up at the airport and they got out in shorts and smiles to welcome me.  I started melting in relaxation right then and there in the backseat of their car… then in my room at their condo… and then by the pool in their backyard. I started to feel a calming sensation, something totally new to me, and I happily surrendered in my lounge chair in the sun…

We were at the pool perhaps 20 minutes when Dad decided that he needed a hat to shade his head from the sun.  Charming as always, he asked if we needed anything and then he walked inside.  Ten minutes later, he was back, happily eating licorice, carrying Diet Cokes for us, a newspaper under his arm – but no hat.  Mom asked, “Didn’t you want a hat?” to which he exclaimed, “Oh, that’s a great idea!” and off he went again.  After a few minutes she suggested I go in and help.

He was grabbing a book off the counter, and I suggested, “Hey, Dad, why don’t you grab yourself a hat for the pool?” to which he agreed and walked into the bedroom.  He walked out satisfied, no hat in hand, and said, “Ready?”  I said, “You know what, I’m just gonna grab you a hat so your head doesn’t get sunburned,” to which he said that was probably a great idea.

The rest of the wonderful day, I had a persistent awareness of me and Mom jumping up a lot to help Dad find things.  At one point late in the evening, he was wandering around from room to room looking for something and I whispered to her whether we should help.  She said that sometimes she just lets him look for a while by himself.  And then she admitted that it actually gave him something to do and allowed her a short break.  She added that sometimes he actually finds the item he’s looking for and she doesn’t have to get up after all!  🙂

Me happy to see Mom and Dad at the airport!

Me and Dad chillin' poolside - with his hat!