What would you think of a lifestyle in which you did whatever you felt like and were catered to by a small army of minions? If you’re a young parent, you’ll automatically think I’m talking about the life of an infant. If you’re in your 50’s and looking after an elderly parent, you know I’m talking about the luxuious life of the very old fart.
In particular, I’m talking about my dad. Until May of this year, he was a vital, ridiculously healthy old fart who used to walk the dog, make his own breakfast, and toss back several Southern Comforts every day. He no longer had to worry about shoveling the driveway, mowing the lawn, paying the bills, or even running to the liquor store; my brother and I were right there waiting to do his bidding.
True, he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In an ironic twist of fate, however, he could never remember than he had Alzehimer’s. I kid you not. One day when he wondered aloud why he was so forgetful, I gently reminded him that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. He maintained stoutly that he had no such thing. Did he remember Dr. Chang, I asked. Dr. Chang was the geriatrician who had diagnosed him. Well, said father, the doctor obviously didn’t know his business, because there was no way he, Bill Brown, had Alzheimer’s. Period.
So, Dad toddled happily and forgetfully along, asking six or eight times a day what day of the week it was, but never forgetting to turn the stove off after making his breakfast.
Then, one day in late April, he fell down. Being a ridiculously healthy old fart, he didn’t hurt himself, but he still got an ambulance ride to the hospital. By the time he got there, he had fully recovered his faculties. Seems he had only had a TIA. However, the EKG they gave him at the hospital showed that his heart was now dancing to a rhumba beat, so they gave him a pacemaker and blood thinners.
The day after he came home, he had The Big One: a thalamic stroke.
This was not so easy to recover from. He had paralysis on one side, general confusion, and loss of speech. Or rather, not loss of speech so much as loss of the ability to make sense of language. He could talk a blue streak. He just couldn’t speak a language the rest of us could understand.
Once the hospital staff rehabilitated him to the point where he could stand up with assistance, they sent him home. For three months, an army of helpers came by to take his blood, rehabilitate his partially paralyzed right side, alter the house to make it safer, train the minions charged with dressing him, feeding him and generally catering to his every whim, and reacquainting him with the English language.
Dad was noticeably unimpressed. He yelped and complained and resisted all the way. In spite of this, he regained strength and some coordination on his right side. His speech recovered only slightly, however; he can now enunciate any profanity with a clarity that would impress even Henry Higgins (the professor in My Fair Lady).
So now Dad spends his days being doted on by a variety of caregivers who clean him, cook for him, keep him entertained, and generally do his bidding.
I, on the other hand, have become just one of the minions. I’ll be shopping for my yellow bodysuit tomorrow.