A week away from Bob: Preparations & Communications
Papa Bob tends to not do so well when I leave town.
Last November, I drove HH up to Canada to experience “American Thanksgiving at UBC.” It was our first college campus visit: a chance for American high school students to visit The University of British Columbia while UBC students are in class, and American kiddos are on break.
The timing worked well for our family; Mr. Blitch has been obligated to work the days before and after Thanksgiving for the last 20 years.
I had recently settled Bob into a new Adult Care Home in Portland, and had a free window to travel with HH.
However, Bob was not feeling as settled as I had imagined. Per report from his primary caregiver, Bob had become confused during the 3rd night of my absence. He decided to shower at around 4 in the morning. He slipped and fell. Miraculously, he did not seriously injure himself, and his caregiver was able to wait a few hours to call me with the unhappy update.
It happened again recently when I was in Seattle for several days for my INELDA (International End of Life Doula Association) training. Bob had what we have affectionately started calling “one of those episodes” and fallen in the dining room after breakfast. Again, not an emergency, but enough to trigger my guilt for not being there for him.
Currently, I am in Pennsylvania with HH, visiting Swarthmore and Haverford Colleges.
And throwing in a visit to Bryn Mawr ~ where, as my mother describes, I was “hatched.”
Bob seems to understand the reason for the college campus visits, but the interest in visiting my birthplace has thrown him. In our conversations prior to my departure, Bob confused my birthplace (where I did not grow up) with Northern California, where I attended Jr. High and High School.
I prepped Bob as best I could for my time away.
I bought him some new socks, as he had become convinced that some of his older socks had “gone missing” (read: in Bob’s mind, stolen by other residents).
Sadly, I observed that not only did he not try on the new socks, but had also worn the same pair of old, grey, socks for at least the last 5 days that I was still in Portland with him.
I brought a bag of Hershey’s Miniatures Mix three days before I left. They were gone within 48 hours.
I restocked: Halloween Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, HERSHEY’S® KISSES, some plain milk chocolate bars from Trader Joe’s, and some honey roasted peanuts. All of these items were purchased On Sale. It would be a tremendous sin to pay full price. Even for these essential staples.
Bob tends to change the subject when he’s feeling uncomfortable.
He asks me if I have my “device” with me. Can I look something up for him?
Me: Sure thing, Dad. What’s up?
Bob: Look up “City. On the edge… of Forever…”
Me, pleasantly surprised:
Oh! This! Yes, we loved this episode! Remember you had it recorded on a VCR tape. It had Joan Collins in it!
Bob, satisfied: Ah, yes. I was trying to remember her name.
Check-in Phone Calls
I reminded Bob that coordinating phone calls might be a bit challenging with the 3 hour time difference. In theory, he understood this.
The day of departure, Mr. Blitch drove us to the PDX at 0430. Needless to say, a long day of flying, rental car pick up, and driving for the first time on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
I tried to ring Bob up in the evening: bedtime in PA for the exhausted travelers, after dinner hour for Bob in Portland.
He did not pick up. Not alarming, as he may have been in the bathroom, or elsewhere, unable to answer the call.
I fell asleep, assuming it would be acceptable to call the next day.
Next day: Afternoon in Pennsylvania, late afternoon in Oregon.
Bob picks up on the first ring.
Bob: I thought you were going to call me to let me know you had arrived safely!
Me: Oh, Papa, I did. I called once, but didn’t reach you. I’m sorry if you were worried.
You know, you have my number– you can always call me too!
Bob: (long pause) … I’m not sure that I can…
Two days later (October 13th):
Me: (Newsy chatter about Swarthmore, Haverford, and Allentown) then,
Dad, how’s your day going?
Bob: Oh, about the same as yours. 60 minutes in each hour.
Me: Funny guy! Hilarious as always.
Bob: So… you’re coming home on the 11th, then?
Me: (gulp) Um, actually we’ll fly in late on Monday evening. Today’s Friday, so we have the full weekend and part of Monday, then we’ll head home. I’ll see you in person on Tuesday.
Bob: Well, wonderful! I’ll look forward to that.