Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Week With Dad 10/24-10/31/09

From October 24 - October 31st I spent a week with Stan helping him get chores done, things on his mind dealt with, doctor's appointments and visits with relatives. For the most part I focused on Dad. I tried to keep a journal everyday, sometimes taking out the computer while Dad talked to me. These are excerpts from my journal from the week...

on the plane...
I have a cold coming on, which is a drag. A week with my Dad, doctor’s appointments and visits with relatives, and just hanging out with Stan. Everyone in Big Sky says to say hello for them. They all remember Stan with such smiles and good will. It’s very sweet. They all remember meeting him, even if it was only one time.

I guess this trip will give me some time to think, things I want to think about:

Jackie, I always think about her, she is such a part of my life when we are together and when we are apart, our relationship, her influence on me, her dominance in our family, her moodiness, her intensity, her love, her well intentioned spirit, her taking for granted of me, the things she depends on me for, what are her perceptions of me and our relationship?

My writing, what do I want to write – my blog and my journal are just that – just writing – just getting down the facts, writing about what happened, there’s not a lot of thought or themes, or points or style, I’m just getting the facts – Jackie says I need to go back and pull out the interesting facts and turn them into poems, I’ve been reading a lot of short stories lately, I feel like I want to try to write one, but the more I read the more intimidated I feel, and I’m such a truth sayer, afraid to make anything up, just sometimes feel the truth is so much more meaningful and profound that I’m afraid to even change a name.

Whenever I think of writing – even a fiction – my mind always starts off, I’m the owner of a small grocery store in a small ski town, I’m a tell it like it is sort of guy, born in New York, moved to Montana with my wife, 16 years ago, have trouble making things up, want write a story, but can’t write about the people in my town because they will know who they are and probably want to sue me because they find the truth to be slanderous.

I called my Dad from Minneapolis to tell him I was on an earlier flight. He answered his phone, saying hello hello, but he couldn’t hear me say Hi Dad, so he hung up and called me back while I was still trying to see if he could hear me. He was happy to hear I was coming in earlier, told him I would call him when I got to La Guardia…

9pm New York time. Baseball cancelled Fred Astaire Ginger Rogers in Top Hat on PBS instead… “I don’t know if your going to like it” “You never saw this, it's from 1930…”

“you don’t have to watch this, Markie, put on anything you want. There’s vanilla ice cream if you want… you didn’t speak to Jackie.”

“you know that’s Horton, on our honeymoon he was staying in our hotel, the Crescent Hotel in Bermuda, you never saw him before have you, Mark, Edward Everett Horton…”

“he was married to a jockey, Fred Astaire, Robin something, she was a good jockey...”

“my eyes burn, make yourself at home Markie,” he says as I put a pillow on the table and put my feet up, “look at him dance”

”isn’t she gorgeous”

10/25 11:45am

Dad: "there is a yiddush expression: 'we make plans and god laughs', I like the softer expression:,'we make plans and god smiles.'"

Dad and I are sitting around the house – his housekeeper who was supposed to come at 7 showed up at 10 as we were getting ready to leave when she showed up… so we are waiting around doing laundry – when she gets up with the laundry from the dryer we will go out for a walk…

Dad is sitting in his chair looking at this bust of Sappho that he inherited from his Aunt Elizabeth. “That statue is worth $1000.”

“to whom”

“to an art dealer, it’s signed, you could go on line with that, what’s it? on e e e e e e-bay. Apparently she is folding down there…”

We took a really nice walk down by Little Neck Bay on the walkway between the cross island parkway and the bay… fall colors… dad stops at 2 different benches and takes rests on the way… I’m nursing my bad knee so that works well for me… slowing down and taking deep breaths as I realize that this week is all about Stan. the cleaning lady did a great job, house looks really clean… she dusted all the photographs, she cleaned which made me want to unclutter, which I did a little of… Now just waiting for Dad while watching football Vikings/Steelers…then off to Susan’s to see Susan, Carol and Mark…

10/26/09 5pm

another slow day with Dad, beautiful out, but we probably didn’t get outside until after 11. Dad doesn’t get out of bed till after 9, tries to go to the bathroom a lot, tries being the operative word. I went out and bought him some decaf coffee and a muffin, a newspaper and coffee for myself… here I go again getting bogged down in meaningless details…

We took a walk around the neighborhood, I had tried to find him a local hearing aid store, but the one that I found that is across the street is a fancy hearing aid place really only interested in selling him a pair of $4,000 hearing aids. Right now Dad is trying to see if he can figure out how to use better the ones he already has, which work fine, but now he tells me he wasn’t comfortable last night, the conversation was too sharp, too loud, he doesn’t think he needed them, so I ask him if he can hear me today, since he doesn’t have them on, and he says no, I can’t always hear what you are saying. He wasn’t complaining about my mumbling, which I am apt to do sometimes, he said he couldn’t hear me, so I just made him put them in and play with them, I tell him, that’s the only way you are going to get used to them and know how to use them is if you use them…

He sits in his chair, “you tired?” I ask him.

“No I’m uncomfortable,” he says referring to his stomach.

So after our walk we came home and showered, then we went back out in the car to go to the cemetery. We visited mom, but there also lay Abraham and Rose Roogow, my dad’s grandparents, anna roogow’s parents, she lay there as well, and her brother Louis, and Ernie was down the road a bit.

“I can’t stand that John Sterling, the radio guy for the Yankees… Yankees Win Yankees Win, what a character he is, the Yankees – the inaugural season for the new stadium go to the world series, that’s an accomplishment, they weren’t that good at the beginning of the year, You can complain about Girardi all you want, but what he’s done with his pitchers, I’m the first one to criticize him I think he over manages, but if he wins he’s good…” We are sitting in the living room, I’m writing, he’s resting and talking.

Back at the cemetery, beautiful sunny day, I took a couple of photos of him at Mom’s gravestone, but was feeling awkward about it, because it is such a personal moment for him. Tears on his face. Walking away I asked him if he was ready to go. “Yes,” he told me, “ I told her that I would be resting beside her soon, not sure when exactly, but it’s getting closer.”

We walked away. Dad said, “I don’t need to visit Ernie today. He used to be buried with everyone else, but they moved him to make room for somebody else, but there was room over there, I don’t know what was going on with that.” We got into the car. I turned around, we drove out of the cemetery and back onto the freeway.

At one point today, I think we were on our way to the cemetery going down the elevator in his building and Dad said, “her family always tried to put her down, I tried to hold her up.” Not sure what he meant, I asked, “what do you mean they put her down.” “They made fun of her, her father and her sister, they called her stupid.”

Dad told me at Rosh Hashana he told Aunt Sylvia that he missed Aunt Rose, “I miss Rosie, “ he told her. Aunt Sylvia cried, “I’m the last one left, I’m all alone.”

As we go on with our days, Dad always seems to talk to me when we are walking or while I’m driving, I am trying to stay relaxed so I can remember the gems that he tells me, sometimes they are things I have heard over and over again, we were talking about Howie and Rachel and Susan, while we were driving back from the cemetery.

“Susan’s changed. She’s mellowed, How old is Susan?” dad asks

Well it’s been 13 years since-

Suddenly Dad wakes up, he’s been laying back in his comfy chair and says to me, “When we see the dermatologist tomorrow I want you to ask her about –“

“- the mark on your back?” I interject.

" Yes, let me show that to you."

I look he has at least 2 spots on his back that don’t look right.

“but also I want to ask her if she has some lotion. Why do I get all these black heads on my forehead?” He rubs his head and I ask him, “Do you pop them?” “I scratch them off.” He lays back, then gets up, looks at his phone, “It’s 5:40, we won’t go to dinner till 7 or so?” “Whenever you want to go,” I tell him, “my friends never called me back.”

The phone rings, it’s his friend Bob from Chicago and they talk about the Cubs and Wrigley Field and doctors appointments and airplane travel, “It’s scary,” There was the plane that landed in the Hudson now this with the pilots and everything inbetween… Yeah… the Yankees are in the World Series the Yankees are in the World Series,” Dad sings, “I don’t like Girardi, but it seems to work what he’s doing, it must be good… no, Mark does, Mark took one of his kids…Guliani, he’s associated with that guy the police commissioner, o.k. I’ll speak to you later…”

“Susan’s changed. She’s mellowed, How old is Susan?” dad asks

Well it’s been 13 years since Howie and Rachel died and that was her 50th birthday bas mitvah, so she’s 63, Howie would have been 65 in January… “what did Susan say, she wanted to put Mark in assisted living?”

“Yeah she was wishing she thought of that instead of divorcing him, it would have been much cheaper.”

Dad walks by, “are you still hot?”

“Yes, no, go close the windows, whatever you want." I reply.

"That was Bob. He wanted to know the name of a singer she sang “I’m sorry, and you wouldn’t know it, it was the sixties you were just a baby. What kind of phone do you have? Mine is a Samsung. Helena talks to Mary everyday, I said to her isn’t that a bit much. What do women talk about. Men talk about sports about baseball, about football…”

“You’re tired? Your eyes look tired."

“My eyes close up on me… We got a little exercise today…”

“We were talking about Andrew. Susan said, I wish Howie had learned how to say No, then maybe Howard and Rachel would be here with us today. I was surprised that Susan let herself say that. “

Dad said, “why was Rachel driving?”

“I would let Andrew drive.”

“On that crazy road. That curvy road?! I went up there one day to see how bad that road was.”

“Dad, she fell asleep, they were both asleep.”

“They were asleep. How do you know?!”

“Dad they were both asleep.”

Dad sits in his beige chair, talking, "I used to say to my friend Murray, We’re on the front line now."

"When you were in the army?"

"No, we were just kids then. We used to go looking for women and we found them."

Dad gets up and picks up his shoes, "Those buses are busy."

"It’s just the traffic on Bell Blvd you are hearing."

"Yeah, but it’s the diesels…"

It’s the hearing aids, I think to myself, he’s not used to hearing things… the traffic, airplanes, car horns, he can hear all that now, the rain the other night, it was the biggest storm he’s ever heard. – heard being the operative word.

"Did Carol call you or did you call carol?"

" I called her, I wanted to follow up on getting an aid for you – someone to hang out with you a few hours a day or a few times per week…"

"And how do I pay them?"

" With money."

"How much will they cost?" He asks me.

"I don’t know, I know nothing yet, I will tell you when I find out. I’m investigating…"


back from dinner, a very authentic Greek restaurant most people speaking Greek, the food was delicious, pita and French bread, oil and balsamic on a plate, black eyed peas salad, greek salad, lamb stew for me and leg of lamb for dad.

A table of 2 men sat down near us during the middle of our meal and they spoke Greek the entire time, they were probably about my age – one guy was dark haired dark skinned, a bit of a belly, very serious about his food, the other man looked like a taller Andy Warhol, they ate a fried cheese appetizer a greek salad (no lettuce), calamari, stuffed tomatoes, stuffed eggplant, a side of peas, a ton of food, fruit dessert, talking greek, but mostly eating. People eating and talking, very noisy, but fun. Dad and I did the same ate a lot and talked a little. Dad for some reason brought up that I was conceived in a hotel in Florida or maybe on the way to Florida, February 1961, driving down to Florida in Joan and Don’s car with his mom and dad, plus Harold and Louis. A full load, but I guess they snuck in some fun, though dad says he wrecked the car on the way.

Then he was telling me he met Mom in January 1954, took mom to a movie – she was staying at the essex hotel in south beach and the light on the first e was not working.

Mom and Dad dated – they gelled – connected right away. Then sometime in May Grandma and Grandpa shipped mom upstate to get her away from Dad – he had nothing to offer her – they didn’t like him… but somehow they got around all that.

Dad was also telling me that Ben stole the show at Susan and Howie’s wedding – he sang the Candy Man Can, that wedding was June of 72 so I was 10 1/2 , Ben was 6. All I remember from that wedding was telling Susan that I hoped I met a woman like her when I grew up. Dad also told me he got hammered that night. "How did you drive home?" I asked him.

"I don’t know, I had someone watching over me – it was June the middle of the week, I had everyone in the car, and my mother."


“It doesn’t pay to hang around. It’s funny how your mind works. One thing sets off another from 50 years ago."

I almost drove through a red light on our way back from the bagel place this morning and Dad then asked me, “do you remember Paul Glazer?”

“I remember the name.”

Dad recalled to me, “He came in the store once, shaking his head. 'I just drove right through a red light. I didn’t realize it until after I did it. What’s happening? Why did I do that?' he said to me. It was the very beginning of his Alzheimer’s."

Walking back from the dermatologist, still talking about yesterday's near miss as we crossed the street and a man in a pick up almost picked off dad, just as I pulled him back. We were crossing at a stoplight with the walk sign flashing go, but this guy was making a left hand turn and never saw us.

Dad started telling me about an old Polish man that used to come into the store. He would always tell dad that he helped save jews during the war, they did what they could. I said to Dad he felt guilty about the war and dad agreed. "He was hit by a bus in front of the store – his wife had sent him back out to the Dairy Barn, he had bought the wrong milk so she sent him back to switch it and he was jaywalking across Broadway in front of the tire place and a bus hit and killed him."

Dad’s tells me this story after telling me that he isn’t going to jaywalk anymore. "I’ll walk the long way and cross at a cross walk."

"You still have to watch – look both ways, twice," I tell him.

“I will use that as a wake up call and be more careful when I cross."

“what are you crazy?!” Dad and I both yelled at the guy in the pick up truck as he missed Dad by inches. Dad wasn’t even watching – he was just walking towards the flashing white walking figure thinking he had the right of way. I was watching the cars turn left in front of us and was walking slower, not willing to play chicken with the turning cars, and at the last minute pulled Dad back as the pick up truck sped up instead of stopping. The man stopped and apologized as Dad and I yelled, “I didn’t see him,” he said shaking his head. “O.K.,” I said to Dad visibly shaken up, he didn’t see you, he didn’t hit you, let’s get out of the road. “That was close,” Dad said. “You were almost done with me, no more doctor’s appointments, no more finagling schedules. That was close.” He was smiling when he said that, somehow looking for an easy way out, but knowing, still knowing he has too much to live for.

So the dermatologist appointment went well… they hardly kept us waiting. She didn’t like the spot on his chest, she said it was definitely an early melanoma, the ones on his back were not to be concerned about, then she showed me one to keep an eye on, and then she numbed around the spot on his chest, cut out the one on his chest, stitched him up, talking to me the whole time about Montana, dermatologists, Acutane, Krones disease, she kept working and talking. Dad said, “I just walked in, that’s how I found you.” “Yeah you didn’t know any better,” she said. They laughed.

All of a sudden Dad wakes up – he’s in his chair, I’m on the couch typing away, he’s looking for the tv controls, he can’t find them, there in his lap. Then all of a sudden he says, “I’m lucky it was not on my face”

Dad sits down in his underwear, turns up the volume on the t.v., I can’t wear shorts, I might need to go to the bathroom. I had a tough time with the suppository, yeah I’ve gone twice already.

I tell him to go naked on the toilet. “I go naked he says, I walk around the house naked, Your mother used to run around naked. Did you ever see your mother naked?"

"On her wedding night your mother got really sick."

"What she drank too much? She was nervous?"

"No, she had diarrhea, she had no inhibitions, at the Forest Hills Hotel, she just sat on the toilet with the door open,she was an earthy woman. We had 44 years, actually 45 years. She didn’t say to stay out of the sun,"

"You just have to put on sunscreen, that’s all."

"Man, she put on some bandage, I’ll have to sleep in a t-shirt. Your friend wants t-shirts?"

"Well, he wants an extra small v-neck. He’s a small guy."

"Smaller than Jonesy? Can you believe Jonesy was a marine?! You’ve got to give him credit."10/28/09


"1947. I called Mom from school from the nurse's office – 'I’m sick.' 'Come home then,' she said, 'but I want to go to the ball game.' ' Come home and get me. I'm going with you. So I came home with my friend Corky and we all went to the game – it was a double header took the Flatbush train to Ebbets Field, the old Brooklyn Dodgers were playing the Pirates, Hank Greenberg, Ralph Kiner, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson’ first year. The Dodgers had this catcher not Campanella, Edwards was his name and my mom said 'he’s fast' and this guy sitting next to us said 'he runs like he has a stove on his back.'

In the car on the way to the eye doctor:

“ I can’t believe I hit my head, boy did I hit my head. I don’t know what’s up with Donald Kreiswirth, he wanted to change the lunch to Saturday, he was in the hospital with chest pains the last 3 days, boy did I hit my head, the door to the trash closet I let go of it too quick, it hit my head, I dreamt about Aunt Rose last night, she was fine, she looked great, 'I thought you were dead,' I told her, we talked I don’t remember what she said, but she looked great. 5 years is the average that the spouse lives after their partner dies, I’ve been 10 years."

“What there is a scientific number of how long you are supposed to live after your spouse dies?” I ask him.

I drop him off at the door to the medical building and park the car.

“Move on to the next waiting room. It’s unusual there was a baby crying in that other waiting room and there’s a baby crying in this one. 5 months old, she says the baby’s five months old. It’s cold in here isn’t it? You did eat something dinner last night?"

"Yeah we had left over Chinese food, we ate, it wasn’t about dinner, I don’t need to eat all the time, believe me I get enough to eat." I answered him

"There’s some kind of greek soup that’s what someone told me." Now he's talking about food.

"Lemon," I tell him, "I think lemon soup, they like lemon in Greek food."

"Yeah, I bet that’s what it is," dad agrees

Sitting in the waiting room, I say, "I should have wore my Mets Hat." The t.v. is going wild with Yankee fever.

"I made a bet with a guy in Glen Oaks I took the dodgers, he took the Phillies and the Phillies won. In 1950 the Phillies came from way back, then the dodgers had Gil Hodges… that was when the old Belmont Park was there…ohhhhhh," Dad watches the baby calm down. Mother is smiling, "mama don’t sleep all night with you, why are your burping,,, yeah, yes no, hmmm o.k."

"The wound looked O.K.?" he asks me.

“Yes, it looked fine. You can’t see it? In the mirror can you see it? You’ll have to just take the old bandaid off and put the new one on…”

“That’s another issue, Mark, one after the other, but it could be a lot worse.”

“How’s your head?” I ask

“It’s fine, my earache went away too.”


“You look for new things.” He tells me shaking his head.

“Don’t Look.”

“You’re better off not looking.” Dad replies. “Where did you find a space? All in the way back, but you used the umbrella.” He asks, he answers.

Dad’s called in to see the nurse they check his eyes and dilate them.

I’m pleasantly surprised at how well he does – seeing the letters decently.

When we get back to the waiting room to wait for pictures, I tell him I think he’s doing really well. "Your left eye is your good eye?" I ask him.

"What did she say about the injection?"

"That the doctor would decide after he saw you.”

"He used to save the pictures for last, but now he takes them first. Now I don’t have this big bandage here, it feels much better."

“Yes,” I reply, “ that’s why I wanted to change it this morning.”

"What are you writing?"

"I’m writing what you tell me. The stories you tell me I try to remember them."

"You know at Belmont park there was a straight away..."

Picture time

4:15 pm

back at home, after a very nice lunch at Donovan’s in downtown Bayside off Bell Blvd, shared a Caesar salad and a burger and a couple of beers…

on the drive over Dad said, “you’re gonna miss me.”

“I miss you already.” I replied.

He laughed, “I’m lucky, I have good sons. You have good sons, too,” he continued. They’re good boys. Growing up I was a street kid,” he drifts off as we drive thru the rain heading west on Northern Boulevard.10/29/09 6:45 pm

10/29/09 6:45 pm

Back from our day, t.v. on the business report, dad putzing around the house, I want to pay a few more bills for him. I didn’t feel like writing today. Didn’t take my computer with me. Spent most of the morning on the phone. Slept in till about 9:30? We got up, dad took his pills and had some cereal. I took a shower and then we took our walk, up the street across the walking bridge over the Cross Island Parkway, to the Little Neck Bay bike/pedestrian path, sun trying to burn its way through the clouds which by the end of the walk it did. Dad had energy this morning, bundled up with a wool cap and gloves. With the chillier weather we only took one short bench break. He was tired when we got back. We stopped at Dunkin Donuts and he found the manager and complained to her, “How come whenever you have a good thing you never have it?”

"What do you mean?" She responded

“You never have any pumpkin muffins," he told her.

What do you mean, how many do you want, we have them."

He laughs. I say, "just one please and a croissant." He loves being a smart ass old man. Yesterday at the eye doctor on the way out when we stopped to make a return appointment, he said, “is this where you get your refund?”

Around 1:30 we each had a bagel that Dad had defrosted. Before we knew it it was time to go. It was already 2 – Dad was anxious we would be late for his 3:30 appointment with his gastroenterologist, but we arrived early. Dad likes to talk to me in waiting rooms. He started talking about Aunt Bea and Uncle Gerry, I’m not sure how we started talking about them.

Driving through Lynbrook I said, “the cops in Lynbrook are mean.”

He agreed, “yeah there was a cop here he’d give his own grandmother a ticket, Hoffman, his name was Hoffman, he was a motorcycle cop.”

As we got out of the car at the doctor’s office, I said, “you screwed up, Dad, you should have had a bum son. Actually maybe I should just send you Andrew – he could take care of you for a year, you could buy him a car and have him take care of you."

"How was Aunt Sylvia?" he asked me.

"She sounded good I told him."

He replied, “She’s lucky. She has Kenny.”

Being in Lynbrook I ask him if he wants to go to Hewlett later.

“I’ve lost a lot of friends. It’s not easy,” he says, "Bill Antinucci, another beautiful guy. And Frankie of course.” Dad mentions Frankie’s son, Tommy who I used to hang out with.

"we did the papers together for a year of Saturday nights in Uncle Gerry’s store." I tell him. "Uncle Gerry got mad us once because we moved a few things on his desk. He said, 'I let your dad use my store to do the papers, you need to respect my space otherwise I won’t let your dad use the store.'"

Dad tells me how they went to Vegas together a couple of times, went on a cruise together. Bea used to play mah jong with Mom, but then she started cancelling on Mom saying she was too tired or had headaches, and Dad didn’t believe her, he thought she was just making excuses because she didn’t want to play with mom. But Aunt Bea was really sick, she had brain cancer. Dad still feels guilty about that.

Doctor Good called us into his office – he has you sit across from his desk and he talks to you, what’s going on, how do you feel? What’s bothering you. And then he explains what he thinks. You basically talk about farting, pooping, belching, vomiting and he listens and responds. Then he puts Dad into an examination room and tells Dad to undress. While Dad’s undressing he tells me, “If I’m constipated I get anxious. I have anxiety attacks, that things must be worse. I wonder about all the medication I take. Is it helping me? Is it working? Would things be a lot worse if I stopped taking the medication?"

So when the doctor comes back I tell him immediately. “Dad just opened up to me and said, "I repeat, "If he’s constipated he has anxiety attacks that things are worse and he wants to know if the medication is helping at all? And the doctor replies, "There is no reason for the anxiety attacks, things are not worse. Your issues are normal and common and yes the medication is helping." Dr. Good is used to the negative outlook and tries to turn that around. He does a stomach exam, has dad take breaths, as the doctor listens with a stethescope. Dad starts laughing, “It’s the end game, Mark.” “Not quite yet,” Dr. Good replies.

So then after the exam, we went back in his office and he talked to us about what he thought was going on and what he wanted to do. Basically it seemed to him that the main problem was his constipation and Dad needs to work on his diet. Fruits and Vegetables, and peppermint tea, no fried food, more prune juice, more water, suppository every other night, lots of water. Somewhat obvious.

I told dad, "Less bread, more fruit and veggies. Nothing agrees with you anyway, so try to eat things that will make you go."

On the drive home, Ben called, I gave Dad the phone. I was trying to see if he wanted to go to Hewlett, I had this big truck flying by me on the left, and an suv beeping his horn up my butt as we went under a train tressle and almost got slammed into the wall as I drifted up to a red light – so I pulled over and let the Suv go by and then got behind him and layed on my horn. Dad didn’t like the road rage, but I was coming up to a red light and I had this suv on my butt blowing his horn.

Then we decided to just drive back to Bayside, “If we go to Hewlett,” Dad said, “we’ll just find out things we don’t want to know."

For dinner we went to the mall and had Boston Market turkey dinners and then back home I give him his antibiotic eye drop, and he took his pills and I paid a few bills, and now Dad’s walking around the house in his whitey tighties, farting and stinking up the joint – he just did a suppository and he’s trying to get it to work. “You need to give it a chance to build up.”

Jonesy just called and hung up before I could get to it…

So we talk about my Uncle Sidney. “He’s off tomorrow,” Dad says.

“So he should join us for lunch,” I say, “but not with Jan.” Dad laughs and says, “I told him he should come, but he said he has vertigo he shouldn’t drive.”

“but we could pick him up.”

Dad laughs, “I told him, “but he says she says she doesn’t feel well, she might have the flu, you can’t leave me home alone if I’m sick”

“AHhHh,’ I say, “he’s such a good man, Uncle Sidney, why did he have to marry such a woman.” “

"It’s not so bad my Dad says, he has a family, he’s happy.”

Dad walks away heads to the bathroom.


Home from lunch with Aunt Sylvia and Kenny, Uncle Donald Kreiswirth, Uncle Sidney (a.k.a Jonesy) Dad and I.

On the way from the car to the apartment:

Dad: Lunch is coming up on me already. I don’t enjoy eating anymore.

M: Dad, have you ever heard of the word Zen?

Dad: That means, the other guys, Them.

M: laughing, shaking my head, Zen,

Dad: Them

M: Zen, Z like in zoo, e like in egg, N like in Nancy, ZEN

Dad: Zen, yeah that’s a scrabble word.

M: shaking my head some more, zen Buddhism, it means centered, going by feeling. You need to eat foods that make you feel better, You went to the doctor yesterday and he told you to eat more fruits and vegetables and less bread…

Dad: I only had one roll.

M: But Dad you’ve had 2 meals since that appointment and you’ve had turkey and potatoes and then today you had chicken and potatoes. Did you have a salad with lunch?

Dad: Yes.

M: Good, but you have to eat lighter, you have to think about what is going to make your body feel and work better.

Dad fishes for his keys, looks at them, after a small struggle finds the right key and opens the door. He stops at his mail box. We pull out the letters, Is there a check for me? I’m waiting for a check from AARP, there supposed to send me a refund. There is a bill from Verizon and 2 junk mails, one is addressed to mom.

We talk about charities, phone bills, as we go up the elevator. At his door he fumbles with his keys, has trouble finding the holes, but finds them and opens up the door.

It was a great lunch, Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Sidney exchanged stories about the old bakery in Brooklyn. Aunt Sylvia and mom lived above the bakery Kayla’s? in those years. Mice running underfoot upstairs, when it got busy grandpa B used to take the broom and hit the ceiling for grandma to come down to help. They bought that bakery for 18,000 and sold it for 35,000 a year and a half later.

Shelleys they bought in 1945 for 90,000, an unheard of amount, the highest price for a bakery ever at the time.

Mom and Aunt Sylvia used to go shopping and leave the baby carriages outside with the babies Louis and Phyllis in them…

They told a story about Luigi’s, an Italian Restaurant owned by a Greek Family, Sidney used to like to deliver to them because he would always take a few shrimp from the back, delicious…

Then they told us about when the restaurant would run out of bread Grandpa would call a cab, load the cab full of French breads and send him over to the restaurant.

It was a really special lunch, I sat between Dad and Sydney. Aunt Sylvia was across from me, she looked great, life without Leo is O.K., her kids take good care of her and keep her very busy. She is only playing cards 2 or 3 times a week.

On the plane home I wrote this letter to my brothers...interesting to me as it has other details that I didn't journal about, and also makes a great summary of my week.

Dear Brothers,
We all have different relationships with our father, but truly he acts the same with all of us. We had a very good week together, productive, and good spirited. Dad likes referring to all the doctor’s appointments as the end game. As Harold said to me yesterday on the phone, “that’s our father’s sense of humor.”

So to report:
We had an early melanoma removed from his chest. Dad returns to get his stitches out next Thursday, when Dr. Graf, a nice orthodox jewish dermatologist will tell him based on the results of the biopsy if he needs to go to a surgeon to get it dug out more or if she can do it in the office. Her office is around the corner from Dad’s building. That was Tuesday.

On Wednesday we went to Dr. Shakin, the retina specialist who knows Harold and Louis from Hewlett High School. He was very ambivalent about giving Dad this shot of Lucentis behind his left eye, but once we decided to go for it, he was more positive about it, saying “it’s literally worth a shot.” My opinion is that it’s more like a shot in the dark, it might help him see better, but most likely not. Dad is anxious about when he will know if it will help. But the shot went well, I put the antibiotic drops in his eye (he’s done with those) and there seemed to be absolutely no negative effect, i.e. infection or pain in the eye. I told Dad it would be at least a week before he might show any improvement in vision. If the shot works it wears off and he would need to get this shot every couple of months or so.

On Thursday we saw Dr. Good his gastroenterologist. Dr. Good is a very intelligent, caring man and a very good doctor. Dad explained to Dr. Good how his stomach issue is also exacerbated by his hearing and vision problems. (I was able to fix Dad’s hearing aid on my arrival Saturday night and he used them on and off not as much as he should use them, but he is trying to use them.) He explained to Dr. Good about the sour taste in his mouth, and his constipation issues. Dr. Good felt that the sour taste in his mouth was a good thing, that means his esophagus had opened up and that the botox treatment had worked. I told the doctor that when Dad gets constipated he thinks something else is wrong, that he is afraid, he gets very anxious and worried and then thinks that the medications are useless. Dr. Good assured him that nothing was very wrong with him. The medications definitely helped him, things would be worse without them. His stomach was not distended. He was fine, that what he needs to do is treat the constipation. So after the exam we sat in his office and Doctor Good explained to Dad that he needed to change his diet, needed to drink more prune juice, more water, eat more fruit and vegetables, sweet potatoes and salads, drink peppermint tea, no fried or fatty foods. Dad eats lots of bread, meat and potatoes, but not a lot of veggies and fruit. So I went grocery shopping with Dad and we bought things he thought he would eat, dried fruit, fresh cut fruit, a salad. Dad is also supposed to take this suppository either every other day or less often as needed. During the exam the doctor had told Dad that he had a lot of stool in his rectum. Dad had been trying to go on and off all day, and we all know if he can’t go he walks around unhappy, uncomfortable, worried and obsessed. Dad generally speaking lets his stomach run his life. Happiness is a good poop. Anyhow that evening as we settled in front of game 2 of the world series I asked him if he was going to take a suppository that night. He shook his head and said it will keep me up all night. So I suggested why don’t you take one now. Without saying anything he did and then spent the game between the t.v. and the toilet. O.K. maybe I’m getting too detailed here, believe me I could have been a lot more descriptive. But what I’m getting at is the suppository works very well. He slept fine. On Friday when he got up, it was beautiful out and we had talked about getting up early to go for a walk before our planned lunch with relatives, he immediately said to me, “I’m not walking, today. I can’t walk, I’ll have to go to the bathroom.” So, we didn’t walk. I went out and got myself some coffee and he spent the morning getting ready.

We had a great lunch at the Jolly Fisherman in Roslyn with Aunt Sylvia and Kenny, Uncle Donald Kreiswirth and Uncle Sidney. Dad seemed to zone out a lot at the lunch, but for the most part the conversation was lively and fun. Aunt Sylvia and Sidney talked about a bakery in Brooklyn that Grandpa B and Mr. K bought during the war and they moved from the Bronx to run it. Aunt Sylvia and Mom lived above the bakery with mice running around their feet and grandpa pounding on the ceiling with a broom when he needed grandma to help at the counter. Dad seemed a little out of it at times during the lunch, probably obsessed with his stomach and still not ordering the right things off the menu. He wanted chicken (why order fish at a fish restaurant?) I tried to get him to order fish, but then I found on the menu a grilled chicken Caesar salad, which he ordered, but as the waiter went around the table he changed his order to a heavier, breaded chicken with mash potatoes and gravy. On the drive home I talked to him about changing his diet – We had a funny conversation as we walked into his apartment:

Dad: Lunch is coming up on me already. I don’t enjoy eating anymore.
M: Dad, have you ever heard of the word Zen?
Dad: that means, the other guys, Them.
M: laughing, shaking my head, Zen,
Dad: Them
M: Zen, Z like in zoo, e like in egg, N like in Nancy, ZEN
Dad: Zen, yeah that’s a scrabble word.
M: shaking my head some more, Zen Buddhism, it means centered, going by feeling. You need to eat foods that make you feel better. You went to the doctor yesterday and he told you to eat more fruits and vegetables and less bread…
Dad: I only had one roll.
M: But Dad you’ve had 2 meals since that appointment and you’ve had turkey and potatoes and then today you had chicken and potatoes. Did you have a salad with lunch?
Dad: Yes.
M: Good, but you have to eat lighter, you have to think about what is going to make your body feel and work better.

So, that’s our Dad at 79, blind in his right eye, very poor vision in his left eye. Doesn’t hear very well, is slowly trying to get used to the hearing aids. Obsessed with his stomach, which basically runs his moods. It’s the end game, but really he is very healthy, he just needs us to stay on top of him and keep him busy with his grandchildren.

He also will need one of us to take him to follow up doctor’s appointments:

Wednesday, December 9th – I pm with Dr. Shakin
Thursday, December 10th 4pm - Dr. Good this can be changed to Wednesday if we want…they are there till 7pm on Wednesdays
- let me know and I will call and change it
Friday, December 11th – 9:45am with a local ophthalmologist – he can walk to this appointment and I do not know how necessary it is if he’s seeing Shakin.

Any volunteers…. And then he might need help with the melanoma – will know more on Thursday.
And then he is still planning on going to Florida from December 16th – March 15th. Helena was in Florida all week, she’s in Florida next week as well. I think over the last few months they have only seen each other about once every 2 or 3 weeks… And now they are going to live together for 3 months…. We can only hope for the best…

I am thinking that the perfect situation for Dad (somewhat unattainable) is for him to live on his own with one of us watching over him. He does much better with a little push, otherwise I think he basically sits around in front of the t.v. which he can’t really see, and which he can hear, but is he listening? I watched the games with him and I would comment on the play or on the player being interviewed and his responses are often from left field, he is watching (or I should really say seeing) a different game than I am…

He needs his own space, for privacy and dignity, but he really shouldn’t be left alone, but he is capable of taking care of himself, it’s just a little worrisome. I am going to look for a condo to rent for him for April or May… either near my house or the store… get him out in Big Sky maybe for most of the summer starting as early as possible?

This is long winded, I know. What would mom want us to do?

Oh yeah, I also spoke to somebody about home health care, he was referred to us by a friend of Carol Kellerman’s. Mike from Partners in Care Visiiting Nurse Service. His direct line is 212-609-4871. The General Line for the agency is 212-609-7700, option 2. He seemed like a together guy. He told me they basically do 4 hour visits at 18.50/hr. They will first send a registered nurse to evaluate Dad’s needs and make a list of what is expected of the Home Health Care Aid, i.e. light housekeeping, help prepare meals, take him outside, change batteries on hearing aids, etc. etc. You can have someone come once a week, twice a week or I think even as needed. When I got off the phone with this guy Dad looked very uncomfortable. He likes the idea of a little bit of help, but I think he is fearful of the stranger coming to the house. I think he had a mixed experience when he had nurses come to the house after his surgery…

Anyhow personally I don’t think he needs this yet. I think he’ll make it to Florida, but if we need to or if any of you want to call this guy and ask him questions please do.

O.K. enough for now. Let’s see how it goes.

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