Separated

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Well, it happened. Mom and Dad are now separated.

There were no harsh words, no cops, no neighbors looking on. Just a separation.

Mom has the same address and phone number. Dad has a new address, no phone.

It started on Monday, when Dad showed signs of pneumonia. Mom, who noticed his difficulty breathing, called the doctor. She was told to take Dad to the emergency room, where he was admitted and put on some strong antibiotics to cure the disease.

But his weak heart showed signs of stress. Mom was told that if there were no funeral preparations made, maybe now would be a good time. She called in the children.

*****

Dad lay in a stupor for two days. In his mind he was getting ready for work. There were blueberries to pick, and where in the world was the wheelbarrow?

He had to get out to the shed and to work in the garden. He wondered who people were and where others had gone. The Alzheimer's sent him back to places he hadn’t been for 70 years.

However, Dad rallied, got his legs back, and indicated he wanted to go home.

 Only one of them could make the decision, but they would both have to live with that choice.

But with his weak mind and body, a decision had to be made. Could Mom still look after him at home? After 65 years of life together, was it time to let go and let her beloved be taken care of by someone else?

The pair had had their times of joy with the birth of their own children, their children's children, and even their grandchildren's children. They’d both had heart attacks and cancer. Now, with Dad's “time of mixed up brains,” how much longer could Mom care for Dad? Not simply the physical care it took to help him when he fell out of bed, but watching him 24/7 without either of them suffering physically or emotionally.

So a decision had to be made. Only one of them could make it, but they would both have to live with that choice.

*****

Mom decided it was time. They would have to separate, leave each other, in order to survive.

*****

Dad was practicing his walking in the hospital hallway when Mom broke the news.

“You know, Tom, it's very hard for me, an 87-year-old lady, to take care of you, my 91-year-old hubby—can you see that?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Dad replied. He didn't look up.

“So do you think you could go to another hospital where they can give you physical therapy and get you back on your feet again?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” He still didn't look up.

“Well then, would you like to go to the Plains? They have good P.T. there. Remember we talked about that some time back?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

*****

After 65 years of love, laughter, caring, and crying, they were separated—not in spirit, but in body.

As Dad put on his coat for transfer, he again asked Mom, “Now are we going home?”

“No, Tom, remember, we're going to a new place where they can give you P.T., and as soon as you're better and not so mixed up anymore, you might be able to come home again. Is that OK?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” came the usual reply.

“You like P.T., Tom. You remember going to P.T. before?”

“Yeah, I guess so. I go on the treadmill.”

*****

Dad took a ride, and Mom got him comfortable in his new room.  She introduced him to his new roommate and went through the usual questions and answers with the admitting staff.

“How many children do you have, Tom?” the resource person asked.

 “Six,” Dad said.  

“No, Tom, not six,” Mom corrected.

“Well then, Tom, how many children do you have?”

“Six,” Dad said again, “three of our own and three in-laws whom I love just as much as my own. Now I'm right, huh, Susan?”

The blank stare was gone and a part of Dad was back. The part with the little grin showing us that not all of him has disappeared into that awful place called Alzheimer’s.

*****

It was time to leave. Mom and I gave our usual farewells, goodbye kisses, and promises that we'd return.

“I want to go home,” Dad said, reaching for Mom’s hand, tugging at her heart strings.

“I know, Tom, and as soon as you can walk around again and you're not so mixed up, then you might be able to come home again.”

“No, Susan,” Dad said, looking up, “I just want to go Home.”

He put his head up, closed his eyes, and squeezed her hand.

“I'm even a burden to myself. I just want to go Home.”

Mom had to turn around and walk away.

Separation is difficult.

Author’s name withheld.

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