Dad’s health took a downward turn yet again. He had difficulty standing and by now spent much of his time in a wheelchair. He had his own hospital bed and other necessary accessories for his care. Mom did most of the care for him, but we did have visiting nurses come on a regular basis. We were managing as well as can be expected until the day Mom could not get him to move.
It was on the day my husband and I were taking our children for our first trip to my happy place, Walt Disney World. I remember having the car packed and ready for our 17-hour car ride. I remember my mother being concerned about my father, but still she did not want us to worry. She was not alone, there was other family nearby and she wanted us to go on our vacation.
We picked up my child from school and left. We had a great trip and were enjoying ourselves the entire time. My family fell in love with Walt Disney World on that vacation. What was not to love about a place that had a pool right outside our room, rides galore, all kinds of shows, and food everywhere you turned? My sister came with us. There had been a package, kids stay, play, and eat for free with accompanying adults. We had three adults and three children. It was perfect.
This was a period in my life when I did not have a cell phone. My sister had one and she was getting regular updates on my father. Apparently, my mother had not managed to get my father out of the wheelchair that day. Someone had to come over to help her. An ambulance had been called and Dad had been transported to the hospital. I don’t know exactly what had happened that had made him so ill. I don’t remember if he had an illness, infection, or if Alzheimer’s just made it so he was incoherent. Something had happened and Dad was beyond the point where Mom could care for him.
I know exactly where I was. I was in the hallway between a restaurant and the restrooms. My sister was talking to someone at home and when she hung up, she told me, “Dad’s in the hospital. He isn’t going to come home.”
He didn’t come home again. He went into a nursing home, then into assisted living, then back to the nursing home when he could no longer get into the wheelchair with assistance. He lived for many years after leaving our home that day, but he never did return. It was the point of no return.
A few years ago, my family returned to Disney. I was fortunate enough to take a behind the scenes tour which I thoroughly enjoyed. Part of the tour involved a meal in the same restaurant my family had been in years before.
I went to the restroom. I walked down that hall, and I remembered that day all those years ago. Back then, I not cried. I had simply enjoyed my vacation with my chin up, knowing my father had needed more care than we could provide and he was going to get it. I faced reality just as I had needed to face reality.
On the day of the tour, I walked through that hall, remembered my father, went into the bathroom and broke down in tears I had not cried in the last ten years. It is funny the things that get you when you least expect it.
Still, I have no regrets leaving my mother on that day because she was not alone. I have no regrets having my father cared for outside of our home. I may never go to that restaurant again, but I have no regrets. We do what we can, and we live our lives.