A Sad End

It’s interesting to see dad’s friendships in his later years. Most of his friends are either dead or not talking to him–a result of how he lived his life, i.e. drinking too much, getting into trouble, making a nuisance of himself. His constant friend has been one of his oldest friends, Big Jim. Jim and dad talk every day, several times a day now that dad is living under my care, not drinking, not getting into trouble. Jim, himself, stopped drinking almost five years ago, so their friendship is one that I encouraged.

When Jim asked to come down to stay with dad this January through March to escape the harshest part of what a Wisconsin winter had to offer–well, part of me was hesitant, because I didn’t know if I could believe Jim when he told me he’d stopped drinking so long ago, and the other part of me thought it would be a great idea. Dad’s lonely. He has no one down here. All his family’s dead, save for my brother and me. My brother, long ago, told me dad was my responsibility as he’d already done his duty taking care of grandma, dad’s mom.  Other than a once-every-few-years visit, my brother and his family would not be a source of entertainment. I’d made it known after dad’s last round of drinking that I wouldn’t be a source of entertainment, either. I’d take care of him every other way, but he’s spent his last dime of pity with me. So, this visit by Jim, well, that sparked some life into dad. I was glad for it. Glad for him.

Big Jim arrived ahead of schedule, December 28th. Dad was giddy. He called me several times every day to tell me what they were doing: going to Wal-Mart and riding the carts around the store, going to Target and Publix and Winn-Dixie to do the same. Jim’s about 400 pounds. Dad’s short and about 250 pounds. I can only imagine what they looked like tooling down the aisleways.

They went to DXL to buy some new clothes for Jim (he’s about 400 pounds, dad’s about 250 pounds).  They went to Batteries+ to get a new phone battery for dad’s phone. They’d go out to breakfast every morning to different delis as well as iHop and Denny’s and Golden Corral. Sometimes they’d also go out for lunch or dinner, too. Jim cooked dinner. Dad says he doesn’t know how to cook, though I know he does. He makes chili and vegetable soup and he can make a roast in a Crock Pot.

They’d do laundry every few days and wash bedding every week. They’d go sight-seeing. Historic St. Augustine, The Alligator Farm, driving up and down US 1 to see the remnants of Hurricanes Matthew and Irma. They’d sit out at the pool, (yes, in February), and get sunburns.

I have to admit, I didn’t go over any more than was necessary. My other half and I went over early on because they couldn’t set up the flat screen Jim gave dad. I’d go over to put minutes on dad’s and Jim’s phones. I brought them Girl Scout cookies. I’d pick dad up for his medical appointments.

Dad’s last appointment was with an oral surgeon to have five teeth extracted. I dropped dad off at his apartment and left to get his prescriptions for pain and antibiotics, and in that short amount of time, Jim let dad know that he was going to head back north, a month early. He said his roommate was in an accident and he had no transportation.  My immediate reaction was, he’s never heard of Uber, Lyft or a plain ol’ cab? He’s a much younger man, I think he’s my age, mid-fifties, didn’t he have friends who could run errands for him?

I’ve known Big Jim my whole life. This this the first time I think he lied to me. I don’t believe his friend was in an accident. And if he was, I don’t believe he had no other resources he could tap for four weeks than Jim. I think Jim wanted to leave. I think the thought of playing nursemaid to dad for a couple of his remaining weeks here was the kicker. Knowing my dad, I know dad let Jim do all the cooking and cleaning, let Jim instigate it all. Dad’s not clean, not tidy. He doesn’t clean up after himself well. God love grandma, she didn’t either, so he comes by the bad habits honestly. Jim is very clean, nearly a germaphobe. He’s able to take care of himself–I believe he as at least two pensions, if not three, and he saved (an inherited). Dad’s lost everything he has three times and now I control what funds he has. I think Jim just saw a different dad, and he wasn’t having the fun with an old friend he thought he would.

So, I come back from getting dad’s prescriptions. Dad tells me he’s losing his roommate. He’s pale. His voice is choked. In the same breath, he tells me he’d like to go up to Wisconsin for a few months in the summer. Jim tells me his excuse. I honestly felt bad for dad. He’d had so much fun every single day for two months, and now he knew it would all come to a halt. He’d be alone every day and night. I’d see him every other week, and maybe a couple times in-between, to get groceries, and that would be it. He would have nothing to look forward to except watching television every day.

My better half and I plan to take him out, if he’ll come out, to try to lift his spirits. I don’t know that I’ll sanction dad going North. I don’t know Jim’s roommate, and now, I don’t trust Jim.

 

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It Begins

It’s a wonderful thing to have a good friend you can count on, to talk to, reminisce, and just touch base with. It’s even more so when you’re looking at the finish line, I think. For Dad, most of his “friends” are dead. His family–mother, father, brothers–are long since dead. The last man standing for Dad is his friend, Big Jim. Through all of Dad’s shenanigans, Big Jim stuck around. Never judging–not really helping, either, but he never added to Dad’s problems. Big Jim’s been a steady guy. Always had a job. Never sucked off Dad who also always had a job unlike every other “friend” he ever had. Saved for retirement. Cared for his siblings through their health issues. He’s also always been good to my brother and me. That’s why I didn’t mind so much–all right, I minded a little–when Dad told me Big Jim was coming down.

This past week as we awaited Big Jim’s arrival, I could see a change in Dad. His spirit was lighter. He wanted to do things. I noticed his apartment was significantly cleaner. He called to have me take him to the barber. He called to have me take him to the grocery. (Of course, he could have done the barber and the grocery all in one trip since the establishments are directly across from each other–I offered–but he didn’t).  He wanted to know how to make chili so he could have a pot ready for Big Jim when he got in. I printed off a good Betty Crocker version, which was one of the easiest, got Dad some spices and a ring of measuring spoons, and let him go to town.

Each day Big Jim traveled, Dad called me with updates. He’s in Louisville. He’s outside Atlanta. The closer Big Jim came, the more calls I received.  I appreciated Dad’s enthusiasm, but I grew apprehensive the nearer Big Jim came. How were my responsibilities going to grow? Will the boys get into trouble like they had before? How much time will I need to devote to the two of them? How much will my work suffer?

It didn’t take long for me to find out that I would be called upon. Big Jim was lost. He missed his exit and got twisted up. He called Dad for directions. Dad, who hasn’t driven since the ’80s, had never been where Big Jim wound up. Dad called me for directions to relay to Big Jim. Like that was going to work. Dad couldn’t really explain where Big Jim was. Why Big Jim didn’t just call me directly, I don’t know. He had my number. I had him describe where he was, and I thought I knew where he was. Not more than a few miles away if I was correct. I stopped writing, hopped in the car, and headed out. I found Big Jim parked at a McDonald’s about six miles away from Dad’s place (and mine).

Getting Big Jim to Dad’s was torturous. He doesn’t drive more than 25 or 30 miles per hour. If he drove that way all the way from Wisconsin, it’s a wonder someone didn’t ram him out of frustration.

As we pulled in to Dad’s, Dad came barreling out (as best as he could barrel) to greet Big Jim. It had been years, maybe since 2001, since they’d seen each other. We each unpacked the back of the car and made our way inside.  Dad was jabbering. Big Jim was giggling. I just stayed back and watched. We gave Big Jim the nickel tour of Dad’s apartment, and the boys sat down to rest. Within minutes, Dad remembered how to play host and the boys sat down to chili and Diet Cokes.

The next day, mid-morning, I got a call letting me know where all the two had been. The diner, Home Depot. Turns out Big Jim brought down a flat screen so they could really enjoy their t.v. time. Also turns out neither of them knew how to hook it up. I had to turn to Andy to ask if he would mind hooking up the thing for them. It’s a bother. Dad’s been a weight on me since before Andy and I met, and with all the things Dad’s put me through, Andy doesn’t exactly appreciate being tapped to help. But he always helps. With the aid of our own HDMI cord, Andy was able to get the boys set up. Later that day, Dad called to let me know Big Jim and he decided to hire a maid–dad’s old caretaker who’s pushing 90 if she’s a day. I could only roll my eyes. There’s no reason two grown men can’t clean a one bedroom apartment on their own.

The following day, the boys were off to the Batteries Plus store to buy a phone battery for Dad. Forty-two dollars. Big Jim bought it. I’ll have to repay him. Dad isn’t trusted with money anymore, though I believe I may start giving him some so Big Jim doesn’t get stuck paying for everything.

I don’t know. That’s a big step. For me as well as him. There’s a matter of trust that he won’t try to buy everything, which is his mode of operation. I have to preserve his funds. He’s lost everything three times now. I’m trying to rebuild for him. I know it’s his money, but it’s my sanity that gets strained when it comes to Dad’s funds.

We’ll see.