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Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Why Do Kamikaze Pilots Wear Helmets?

Family, Healthcare, Tosa Personalities, Veterans

Last Friday I was leaving the assisted living center for the first time through the front door.

I had entered through the front door not but thirty minutes earlier.  Preparing to exit I was certain I had returned to the same place.  There was the same gas fireplace, the same television and the same bookcases.  There were mostly the same residents sitting there too.

I could see the great outdoors through the windows.

Pausing for a second or two I'm thinking - where the heck did the door go?

An aide piped-up – Son; it’s directly in front of you.  Painted to match the bookcases.  See it?

Aha!  A secret passage through the bookcase.  I get it.  I give her a thumbs-up.

In a manner of seconds I faced one of those moments that can give you a start from time-to-time.  Kind of like going to the basement workshop to fetch something and forgetting what it was that you were seeking once you’ve gotten there. 

Admit it. 

You know what I am talking about. 

You too have experienced  a brain fart.

But I got to thinking – Tom, you didn’t notice the camouflaged door immediately.  Yikes!  You better make darn sure your long term care insurance doesn’t lapse.

Dad is going to turn 86 next month.

He has been living in an independent senior-living apartment for going-on four years and has finally had to make the switch.

Recently he has had a number of episodes of what I have come to learn is known as - exit seeking behavior.

Yes - the wandering jones.  The happy feet.  There is more to this as well and any of you boomers who have been challenged by elderly parents know what I am talking about.

Independent living wasn’t going to work for dad anymore so last Thursday my brother and I moved our father into an assisted living center that specializes in memory care. 

Having moved the essentials – and dad – via a labyrinthine maze of passages over at St. Camillus my visit through the front door was also my introduction to the cleverly disguised exit.

This is the nature of a dementia care facility.  All sorts of inventive stratagems are used in an effort to keep the occupants safe and secure.

Our family has for some time now bandied-about the morose realization that dad has literally become the last man standing.

And it has been a remarkable journey.

He was fourth of five children born at home in Milwaukee.  One of three to survive to adulthood.  An older sister and a younger brother succumbing to childhood maladies that are not mortal nowadays. 

As a young man he was sent to a Norman beachhead to do battle as an infantry replacement.  In the space of his three and a half month all-expense-paid tour of Northern France his unit endured a horrifically bloody casualty rate.  Dad was one of the casualties that survived.

In an unusual turn of events – mom preceded him in death.  A couple of years ago he waged a battle with cancer and emerged victorious.

He has set a remarkable record seeing how the odds have been stacked against him at so many of life's waysides.

Now it has come to this.

This is a battle that he will not win.  The indignities are manifest and the outcome is certain.

Brother and I have been in close consultation with the social worker, the geriatrician, the nursing staff and others over the last several months.  In talking with the new doc the discussions have turned to discontinuing certain meds that dad has been taking for as long as anyone can remember. 

Including something as ubiquitous as a statin.  You know – for lowering cholesterol.  As if heart disease was a big risk at this stage in his life, eh?

I was talking to a buddy of mine at the day job not too long ago about end of life planning as he had experienced it with his mother.

Why in the world would an elderly man with severe dementia be taking Simvistatin?  His days on this earth are numbered anyway?  Doesn't that strike you as the least bit odd?

To which my bud replied – Why do you think Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

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