Small, Precious Moments

Florida Hospital Update.

Friday – Dad had a calm day at the hospital, and I saw signs of him. That reads strange, I know, but if you have a parent or loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s, that’s the way it is. By signs of him, I mean, I saw his sense of humor return for a few moments, and caught a facial expression I recognized well. The experience warmed my heart, and I was happy I was in the room, and paying attention.

My father has suffered with Alzheimer’s for three years. The disease has progressed to the point where he asks the same questions every few minutes, and the past is further and further from his grasp. Some days are better than others. On Monday, my father underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from behind his ear, and lost his ear. There was nothing to be done; it’s done. Miraculously to me, he can still hear us, but you don’t know what he really hears and comprehends. Yesterday as we were waiting for his dinner to arrive, his right hand kept going up to his ear. I wondered if he knew his ear was gone, but with the heavy packing of gauze and the bandages, I didn’t think so. He kept asking us why he was in the hospital, when he was going home, and we’d answer his every question only to be met with the same question minutes later.

Yesterday I realized how frail my father is as I held him up while the nurse’s aide removed a soiled hospital gown and seat pad, and fitted him with clean ones. I kept a small sheet covering his now wide waist and my sister made sure the hospital room door was closed for privacy. My father was cooperative, quiet, and patient with us. The former Sergeant Major’s muscles have lost muscle tone in the arms, and he stood hunched over. We sat him down again, and he was comfortable again. I realized I’d never been in this situation with my father. Along with a favorite cousin, I’d taken care of my grandmother at home before she died, and I cared for my mother in the hospital before she died at age 57. Again, I wished my father and his new wife had moved closer to the DC area, and again I was thankful for my step-mother who is resting at a local hotel until Monday. But, such is life, and we will do the best we can.

My father’s sense of humor and devilish grin reappeared yesterday when the nurse’s aide asked my father not to touch the location of his IV, and the bandages around the right side of his head. He looked at her with no expression, lowered his hand, and minutes later, he was picking at the tape around the bandages. She kindly asked him to stop again, and he replied with a grin, “When lunch comes, you’ll forget, and I’ll mess with them again.” It took us all by surprise, myself, the kind nurse’s aide, and my sister had to laugh with him. I thought, ‘That’s my Dad. That’s who he was; a very funny man with a quick wit.’ Soon afterward, he asked me, ‘Why am I here, and when can we go home?” The disease was back or perhaps it never left. I find myself staring at my father – afraid he’ll look at me and not know who I am, and hopeful he will remember a bit more about the past. I realize both thoughts are selfish, but I can’t help myself.IMG_7086

I will be happy for small glimpses of my father during my time with him in Florida before I make my way home to West Virginia next week. They are precious moments, and I am I am looking for them. A familiar nod of the head, a recognition of a friendly face in the hospital or something on the television, and yes, even the grumpy man I knew and loved who isn’t happy the nurse’s aide has to accompany him to the bathroom, and watch him as he relieves himself so he won’t fall.


Published by

Eleanor Parker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born, Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning, historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Sixth Street River Press. The book is a Finalist in the 2016 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now, and was Book of the Month with Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. She is featured in the award-winning anthology, Latino Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Eleanor is currently working on her second book, The Laments, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Eleanor is a writer, artist, photographer, and blogger, who is never without a pen, notebook, and her camera. Her wonderful adult children are doing wonderful things in the world, which allows Eleanor the blessing of writing full time. Please visit Eleanor at her website:

4 thoughts on “Small, Precious Moments”

  1. I feel for you my dear Ellie. in Summer 2013, the 3 of us went to visit Dave’s mother in her nursing home. Two months earlier, overnight, she showed advanced signs of dementia. We have no clue how it happened and why so suddenly. For one week, we visited her every morning, fed her at lunch time and left her soon after so she could nap. Each day she was a different person. Her condition made her sweet one day and violent the next day. We had no way to know how we would find her. It was particularly upsetting for Dave because glimpses of the mother he new were rare. We are not even sure she ever recognised him.
    I understand that your father is well taken care of and that’s a little bit comforting. However, it’s hard to see a loved one fade away when you’ve known him vibrant and full of life.
    It’s scary to witness what could become of us. To live in the moment and do the most with the time we have left is about the only thing we can do.

    1. Thank you for your visit and kind words, Liliane. I remember your experience with Dave and his mother. Your description of her mood changes is what we experienced yesterday with my dad; extreme highs and lows. It is difficult to see him fade away and yes, a bit scary for us, as well. Since my mother’s untimely death at age 57, I’ve felt a strong urgency to get all my ‘stuff done’, more so now with my dad. We are only promised today. xo

  2. reflections for a future novel…..extremely moving….I am there , and can see and feel all of it as I read this journey of your father’s life and the effect on the family

    1. Thank you for your visit and kind words, dear Chrissy. There are many cat nap moments on my father’s good days where we sit quietly watching him. Instead of doing my daily long-hand journaling, I’m blogging. It has helped me stay in the moment. xo

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