Cigarettes and Ceramics


Cigarettes and Ceramics

jugs-278620_640On my way home from work tonight, I decided to stop by the assisted living facility to see Dad. They eat supper at around 5:00, and he's usually sound asleep by 6:30, so I wasn't quite sure what I might find by arriving at 6:10. Dad was in his apartment, with the lights off, sitting on the edge of his bed, staring at his feet. When I cheerfully called out to him, he jolted and responded with an enthusiastic and alert greeting, "Hey baby girl! I was just thinking about you!" Good, he's coherent and happy tonight. Or so I thought.

I turned on the lights and immediately noticed a clear trash bag full of bath items on top of the dresser, and a large package of adult diapers in the middle of the floor. That's odd. He doesn't use those. I decide to not say anything and just see where the conversation goes, and I plopped down in the recliner across from his bed.

Not two minutes into the conversation, I know he's not having a good night. The conversation twists and turns, but the primary theme is his concern that the facility is about to go out of business. Well, more specifically, he's concerned the "restaurant" is about to go out of business. Here we go again. Since he moved in 3 weeks ago, he's been convinced that the dining hall is a stand-alone restaurant. It's a fairly large room, with three times as many tables & chairs as there are residents. The facility hosts monthly family dinners and other events, and are fortunate to have enough seating space to hold a lot of guests. On a typical day, the majority of the tables & chairs are not used, leading Dad to believe that the "restaurant" is not bringing in much business, and therefore must not be profitable. Evidently tonight toward the end of dinner he overheard one of the kitchen staff say "It looks like we are almost done here," and another replied "Yep, I think it's about time to close it down." Although I'm confident they were talking about how it appeared that all of the residents had come to dinner and had received meals, so they could start shutting down the kitchen for the evening, Dad interpreted this as more proof that the "restaurant" is going out of business. And since there's nowhere else to eat in the facility, he was worried that he wasn't going to have anything to eat!

He went on to say that since the place is probably going to shut down, he had started packing his stuff, just in case they shut it down in the middle of the night and he needs to leave quickly. Ah, that explains the bag full of bath items. He then went on to say that he found the bag of adult diapers in a hallway closet, and was trying to figure out how he might use them to pack up his clothes but he didn't have any safety pins or anything so was afraid that his socks might fall out of the diaper if he couldn't secure it somehow.

He then asked me if he had a car at the facility. He remembered that he had two at his house back in Illinois, but he couldn't remember how I got him to Texas and if he had a car here. I cheerfully reminded him that we flew on an airplane, and that I drove him from the airport to his new apartment in my car. I reminded him that he does not have a car in Texas, and that the facility won't allow the residents to have cars. He said, "That's a shame, because sometimes it would be nice to be able to just drive down to the corner store to buy a pack of cigarettes and some ceramics."


It's at moments like this when you suddenly feel like you are floating above your body, looking down into the room, wondering if this is actually happening. I crossed my legs and sort of kicked my left ankle with my right heel, just to make sure I really was awake. Unfortunately, I was.

I calmly attempt to reassure Dad that a) the "restaurant" and the facility are NOT going out of business, and b) if it were to go out of business, we would get plenty of notice and I would be there to help him move, and c), if and when he ever needs to move, I will bring a couple of big suitcases and some boxes for him to pack all of his stuff in. That seemed to satisfy him, and he sat in silence, staring at his feet.

I went over to the bed and sat down next to Dad, gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek, told him I love him and that I'm glad he's here, living closer to me. I rubbed his back as he sat there shaking his head, and he finally said "I don't want to be a burden to you." I told him he is NOT a burden, and would never be a burden. And I told him again that I'm glad he's here and that we have this time together.

Driving home, I kept coming back to "cigarettes and ceramics." I am both horrified and fascinated by this experience. I envision the short-circuits that are occurring in his brain, and wonder and worry about what is causing it. How long has he been like this? Is this the aftermath of his recent illness? Is it caused by the stress of the move to Texas? Is the facility managing his medications incorrectly, or is he having some type of adverse reaction to some of the medication he is on? (Yes, I'm calling the facility nurse and his doctor tomorrow!) Or, is this just the natural progression that is to be? I guess time will tell.