December 19, 2019
A little more than a year ago, I wrote in these pages about my father, who was 93 at the time and had just moved into an independent living community. My dad has always been in near perfect health, having had normal blood pressure for the last 75 years (he first had his blood pressure taken by the Army). He doesn’t drink alcohol and hasn’t smoked since being discharged from the Army Air Corp—he said when he was in the Army, cigarettes were too cheap not to smoke.
Now, at 94, he’s slowly becoming frailer and has irritating health issues, namely a new hernia and problems with urination. Since he’s given up his car, he needs someone take him to his doctors’ appointments. I’ve spent a lot of time in North Little Rock this year trying to help him get medical treatment. It’s been frustrating because it can take two weeks to get an appointment, and I kept having to come back from Austin to see about him. But the worst was when we actually saw the doctors, they were unwilling to do anything for him (apart from a catheter). They each told him he was too old to operate on.
So finally, having had enough of this, I brought him back to Austin with me. We were able to get him in immediately to see a recommended urologist and a recommended surgeon. They coordinated with each other and performed their surgeries on him the same morning in the same hospital. After recuperating, I took him back to Arkansas the day after Thanksgiving.
He stayed with us for 10 weeks. When I mention this to people, they often say, “I’ll bet you’re glad to get your life back,” but it wasn’t like that at all. My dad is one of the cheeriest, most affable and pleasant people to be around I’ve ever met. To say he’s easy to get along with is an understatement. The fact is, I miss him.
Dad is one of those people who never asked for anything. Even in his late 80s, walking with a cane, he wouldn’t accept a wheelchair or a cart for a ride to the gate in the largest airport. Since my brother and his family live in Arizona, and me being closer with more flexibility in my job, it falls to me to make the journey from Austin to North Little Rock every other month to see how he’s doing. My brother, sister-in-law and niece make the journey as often as they can, usually twice or three times a year. My dad’s brother and sister-in-law still live nearby, as do three of my first cousins.
So, when Dad called me in September to say he needed me to come up to North Little Rock right away, I knew it was serious. He was in pain and was frustrated and depressed by his situation. After making multiple trips to try to get his health care needs taken care of, I finally brought him to Austin.
He’s back at home now in his Independent Living community, in his own apartment. We’re going to spend Christmas with him, of course. I know, having reached my own status as a senior, how very precious the 10 weeks are I got to spend with him at this point in our two lives. I’ll always be grateful for our time together during this period. I said last year, he has stories. I’ll always make sure to listen.