My Daddy lives with us now. That one sentence says so much to me, but if you’ve never moved a mentally fragile parent into your home, it can’t possibly say enough. We all have pretty much settled in, I think. He does not remember things from moment to moment, or recent history, but he is very amiable and happy and loves being around his grandchildren and Evie, his 4-year-old great-granddaughter.
When he first moved in, I was so excited at the prospect of providing opportunities for him to do things he would enjoy, and to build happy memories of his last years. When I asked him if he would like to visit anywhere, he said, “Bio.” That’s the community he grew up in in northeast Georgia, about 8 miles from Hartwell.
So one Saturday he and I drove up there and met one of my cousins for lunch. We drove out to where my Dad’s family’s home place had stood. We visited the church he attended as a child, and where my grandparents are buried. We even hiked out into a field to a thicket of woods and visited the old family cemetery where his ancestors on his mother’s side of the family have been buried since the Civil War.
He had such a wonderful time! He told story after story of his years in Bio, and pointed out house after house, naming who lived there all those years ago. I had not seen him that animated or smile that much since my parents moved out of their house last December. It was like he came alive again.
Two days later Daddy remarked, “You know, I sure would like to visit Bio some time.” I was shocked. He had absolutely no recollection of the day we’d spent there. I realized at that point that it was too late for him to make new memories. It totally changed how I looked at his time with us.
Since then I have taken him to church, grocery shopping, and to WalMart. My husband walks around the neighborhood with him every evening and the two of them took an afternoon trip to Dahlonega. He has smiled and laughed and played with Evie practically every Sunday.
I have held his hand during church. I have listened to him tear up when asking the blessing over dinner at night. I have stood beside him and taken Communion with him as I silently prayed for both of us. I have answered his knock at 1:00 AM and told him for the 1,000th time that it’s OK…I have his checkbook. I can say with all certainty that I will never forget a moment.
Last night Daddy asked if we would mind if he called “his daughter to check on his wife.” He is slipping so much faster than we expected, which makes this season of him living with us so much more precious to me. As we weave him into our lives, we make precious memories for those of us around him. For Daddy, we create precious moments.
My son John tilled a large plot in our backyard so that we could plant a vegetable garden. Daddy grew up on a farm, and though college-educated and white-collared for most of his adult years, is happiest now when he’s working in the soil. The next day, Daddy and I went out to inspect the plot. We decided it needed to have the dead weeds and grass raked out of it, but we only had one rake. The next thing I knew, Daddy took the wheelbarrow and rake and happily spent an hour and a half raking the dirt clean and smooth and wheeling the weeds back to the back of the yard.
I kept an eye on him out the kitchen window to make sure he was OK. When he finished he came in and said that he hoped no one would find out just how much fun an old man could have doing that. He was so happy! I think that the garden is going to be 1) a wonderful thing for him and 2) the best-groomed and tended garden in the south.
I am also excited about the garden because my daughter-in-law Ame and granddaughter Evie are helping us with it. Ame is very excited. Evie is, too; she helped us measure the ground for tilling. She doesn’t really grasp what we’re planning very well, but she is always good for an adventure, and this is a great adventure. And as with everything else that happens in our house these days, in the midst of this adventure will be my father; “GranGramps” to Evie.
And that is huge. Evie will remember him because he lives with us now. She will get to garden with him; to plant plants and water them and pull weeds and (maybe?) pick vegetables with him.
That is a very sobering thought; that my father may not be around to pick the vegetables we plant this weekend. But we plant them anyway. For Tim, and Cat, and Kelly, and John, and Ame, and me…and especially for Evie…we plant for tomorrow.
For Daddy, we plant for today.