Dad has become much more resistant to physical activity lately. Between visitors he spends much of his time sitting in his recliner and watching TV. No matter who is visiting, getting him out of his chair is a battle. Sometimes the only exercise he gets is letting Buddy out and answering natures call. His lack of exercise is causing loss of muscle conditioning.
Because of this, pie-for-shower night is becoming more of a challenge with each week that passes. He knows he needs to shower but just the exertion of getting out of his chair is so much that he starts arguing with me from the minute I say “Guess what night it is”. The past three weeks have been progressively more difficult. Last week was so hard, in fact, I almost had to throw in the towel. I was particularly exhausted, having just completed a week of school projects with Allison and a larger than usual work load at the office and was in no mood to deal with his resistance to basic hygiene.
“Come on, Dad. It’s not that hard and you get a pie if you do it”, I pleaded.
“I’ll do it in the morning”, he dodged.
“No you won’t, you haven’t showered in a week”.
“I beg your pardon, I shower every morning”, he said angrily.
“No, you don’t and I can prove it”, I shot back.
“You are wearing the outfit I chose for you last Saturday”, I replied, “Please don’t make this hard for me”.
The argument went on and on until he was almost ready to throw me out…except he realized that would require him to get up. Eventually he realized I was just slightly more stubborn than he and gave in. After that I knew I would have to change my approach.
Yesterday I went in with a plan…
Arriving with my frozen pie, I set it on the kitchen table and yelled, “Dad, come in here!! You’ve got to see this!!”
“What?” he yelled back.
“Hurry, Dad this is so cool!!”
“Okay, okay…just a second… gimme a sec…” he said slowly hoisting himself out of his chair and shuffling into the kitchen.
“Come on! It’s really cool…” I said as he entered the kitchen, “Actually it’s frozen”, I said pointing to the pie, “but I will put it in the oven as soon as you get in the shower”. It’s a good thing for me he has a certain respect for a well executed practical joke because that could have gone over very badly. As it was, he fussed a bit about being tricked into getting up but it was the easiest shower he has had in a while.
After he was dressed and made his way out of the bedroom I noticed him start to lose his balance a few times. Although his loss of muscular coordination is threatening to be dangerous, he refuses to use his walker. Paula wants us all to take him for a short walk around the yard each visit whenever possible. This will be difficult for all of us, particularly when he objects so much to even getting up. Since the time Dad fell backward when he and I started to descend the stairs of his back porch a couple of months ago I have been reluctant to take a walk with him unless Mike is there. Unfortunately, for his health and partial independence we must press him to walk… so it means I can’t take him to the back yard but must instead walk him around his large, circular driveway.
After we ate dinner I said, “Dad, let’s take a walk before we dig into the pie”.
“Why?” he demanded, as usual.
“Because you are losing muscle strength sitting in that chair all day. You need to move your legs.”
He let out an exasperated sigh, muttered something and then grudgingly complied.
It was cold out for our part of Texas and I put a large puffy coat on him before we went out and, grabbing his walker as a precaution, followed him. I knew he wouldn’t want to use it but under the circumstances it was a necessary safeguard.
He shuffled slowly along, every step a major effort. I kicked a few fallen sticks out of his path and watched him for any moments of imbalance. He punctuated each minute with “God it’s cold out!!”
Sometimes I got a little bit ahead of him and would stop and let him catch up. It reminded me of something Dad had told me about a long time ago, so I decided to try to jog his memory.
“Dad, do you remember when you told me about the two ducks that kept waddling across your yard in the middle of the day to swim in the neighbor’s pool?”
“No, did they really?” he asked.
“Yeah, you said the female was probably carrying eggs because she was getting bigger with each walk. You said the male was so patient, waiting for her to catch up when she fell behind, standing by her when she would sit down to rest a minute”.
Dad laughed. “Carrying eggs?”
“Yes, and you said you could imagine her complaining as she waddled along ‘My feet hurt! You did this to me! And I’m FAT!’”
He laughed again, “Yes, that sounds about right”. I doubt he missed the point but am sure he decided to ignore that he was the fat, pregnant duck in this scenario.
The story took just long enough to get us to the front door. We went in to enjoy our pie.
I know there will be more walks like this and I will probably tell him more stories to get him through it, pausing occasionally to let him catch up. I guess I will need to learn to be as patient as a duck.
To be continued….