We have experienced another death in the family. While we are attending to this, I thought I'd post something I wrote while caring for Dad in the hospital. For those who have asked, he is recovering at home now.
Contrary to Hollywood and Hallmark, love is not a warm, fuzzy feeling, nor is it passion. While there is room for that in love, love is primarily sacrifice.
One of the things I really enjoy is travel. I enjoy seeing the landscape go by, whether by car, train, bus or overhead by plane. I enjoy new cultures, eating new things, meeting new people, learning about history, and visiting museums. Because I've made my living as an artist (i.e. no living at all), my travel budget is slim. Usually, best I can do is a road trip from time to time.
Wanderlust was hitting me hard this summer and I had started thinking about another road trip. Nothing had been formalized, but I had contacted some friends on the east coast to see what the possibilities were to get together. Maybe I'd drive through the Shenandoah Valley, visit some people I met at Glen East (http://glenworkshop.com/ ) last year, go to Washington D.C., and then down to Atlanta. Maybe I could get someone to meet me in Manhattan or Boston. Part of the fun is thinking of the places I could go.
At the end of August, the Aluminum Overcast B-17 flew into Grand Rapids. This was the plane that my father-in-law served on as gunnery sergeant in World War II. He was stationed in Las Vegas and trained men to shoot in all of the gun turrets except the nose turret. I was running errands when I saw the plane fly into town, but I forgot to tell Mike about it. Fortunately, he saw an article in the paper and told me about it.
The Experimental Aircraft Association flies these planes to keep history alive (http://www.b17.org/ ). They offer tours on the planes and share the history of WWII. For a fee, you can have a ride in a B-17. Mike and I decided it would be great to take Dad up in the plane one more time. We made the arrangements, and took Dad on the ride of a lifetime. He was sharp as a tack that day, recalling his years during the war. He was delighted to be on the plane and the crew and passengers were delighted to have a WWII vet on the flight.
There went my road trip. I did get to go up on the plane and experience history for half an hour. I took lots of photos and created albums for Mike and Dad, which was greatly appreciated. But I did not wander the open roads this year. You sacrifice things you really want and/or enjoy for the love of someone else. My husband and his father had a magical day, and I got to be part of that.
Dad is currently recovering from major surgery and greatly confused by it all. Sometimes he thinks he's in a hotel. Other times he thinks he's in a storage unit. Sometimes he pulls out his IVs and gives the hospital staff quite a workout. Every day, though, is getting a little bit better. It's amazing to see how Mom – his bride of 70 years – can soothe and calm him. I was deeply touched when he first came out of surgery. His first words to Mom were, “Are you still my girlfriend?”
Mom could ask us to move Dad into nursing care sooner rather than later. But she'd rather care for Dad as best she can until it can't be done anymore. We're here to support her and help her make that happen.
There's sacrifice all around. This is what love looks like.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.